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Ovation Looks to Harness the ‘Power of Art’

Ovation Tv will continue to turn to quality scripted fare to help build its arts-themed brand amidst a crowded and cluttered entertainment landscape. Network executive vice president of programming and production Scott Woodward outlined the network’s programming strategy in a recent interview by talking up such shows as Versailles andRiviera -- which premieres in February 2019 -- as content that will create noise while appealing to the network’s upscale, highly educated 25-54 targeted audience. An edited version appears below.

How do you define the Ovation Network brand?

Artistic. Upscale. Engaged. These may be kind of funny individual words to define a network, but it fits the brand. When I look at something like Artful Detective – now in its 11th season – it’s on in the 10 o'clock slot on Saturday night and doing well for us. The minute I try to move that out of its timeslot I will have 150 people calling me in my office complaining. So it's wherever we can find content that people really get engaged with and have passion for.

Is that engaged content more effective with scripted or reality shows?

When I look at our audience from an independent network standpoint, our audience is upscale, highly-educated and a bit older, so what we really need to deliver for that audience is truly premium content. Two years ago when we launched Versailles with a really strong marketing campaign, it became the most successful show we've had on the network. Then season two outperformed season one, and now we're really looking forward to season three launching (Oct. 6). Then the question became what's next after that? We were very happy when Riviera popped up with Julia Stiles; not only is that a premium show like Versailles, but it’s also set in the world of art. It is a crime drama, but it really deals with art theft and forgery, and it's just a really compelling series.

As an independent network, do you feel like you have to develop or acquire big-ticket scripted shows likeVersaillesto give you a chance to compete in a very crowded and noisy cable Tv environment?

Absolutely. Not only because of the level of awareness, but it has to be something that you can talk about in social media. I think one of the successes of Versailles was the incredible social push we got for that show. When I speak of social media tied to Versailles, it was really all ages that were engaged. And the other thing we did that I think that worked well for us is we created complimentary or shoulder content. So for the months leading up to Versailles we had a three part series, The Mysteries of Versailles. We also had a documentary on the making of Versailles the second season. We did an after show after each episode on Facebook that really did quite well for us. It’s about creating a buzz.

What should viewers expect to see from Ovation this year?

We built out the 10 o’clock hour on Saturday night and now as we move forward we are looking at looking at building out additional nights. We've got Monday at 10 (pm) which is really more of a mystery block -- we had The Halcyon last year, and right now we've got X Company in that slot and it's doing well for us. On Wednesday April 18 we're launching a series called The Wine Show, with Wednesday night becoming more of our factual night. We're going to cast a pretty wide net for the kind of artistic content that we'll put in there. It’ll range from The Wine Show to The Art Show, to Masters of Photography with Isabella Rossellini, and again we'll always try to look for that show that has some kind of well-known talent attached that we really can take advantage of it in terms of promotion and advertising.

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.