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A+E’s Big Stage On Park Avenue Provides Platform For Newbie fyi

NEW YORK — A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc made the most out of her network group’s upfront event location at the cavernous Park Avenue Armory last Thursday night.

“Not that long ago, this event, the upfront, took place in a room of about barely 400 people, with a bounty hunter, some specialty documentaries and syndicated programming as our calling cards,” she told about 1,000 media buyers, reporters and other guests assembled, among other reasons, to watch the indie band Vampire Weekend perform after all the speeches.

“Today, we require the largest event space in Manhattan,” she said, “and have a bouquet of some of the most enviable brands in all of media.”

Those brands include A&E, History, Lifetime and the newest one, fyi, a lifestyle channel that on July 8 takes over from 66-million-home Bio.

Being the new kid, fyi got a lot of the attention. Ad-sales president Mel Berning was shown backstage looking at fabric swatches and using a color wheel to help pick out a necktie.

Dubuc said the new outlet would target relatively younger viewers — defined later as women in their early 40s — who consume a lot of lifestyle content online but “are not being served by other portfolios.”

New shows will include talker The Feed, with chef Marcus Samuelsson, foodie Gail Simmons and blogger Max Silvestri; makeover series B.O.R.N. to Style; and Married at First Sight, “an amazing show about marrying people you haven’t met” but have been matched via profile, Jana Bennett, the president of fyi and LMN, said. She identified those three as potential breakout hits.

Fyi has 15 new series in the works and plans 300 hours of originals in its first year, she said.

Bennett on stage said “other lifestyle networks” have “felt rather unchanging over the years, formulaic, very category-based, rather top-down in their approach.” Later, she told The Wire that advertisers have said they “are really pleased to have an alternative” and that having programming “siloed” by food, home or style categories was “actually old-fashioned.”

Through a rep, HGTV and DIY president Kathleen Finch replied to The Wire: "We have the shows and experts that keep the coveted upscale audience coming back to HGTV night after night, so we know what this audience wants and we will keep giving it to them.”

Fallout Grows Over WWE Events Going OTT

Pay TV providers’ unhappiness over WWE’s new over-the-top WWE Network is starting to hit the pro-wrestling programmer in the pay-per-view pocketbook.

DirecTV and Dish Network both declined to even offer the May 4 Extreme Rules event to their satellite-TV customers. In Demand, which secures rights to distribute most PPV events, did deliver Extreme Rules to its cable affiliates, all of which offered it. Dish had earlier dropped WWE’s February Elimination Chamber event.

The satellite-TV pair and other distributors are unhappy because what used to be solely PPV events — with a revenue split going to the pay TV provider — are now available as part of the $9.99-per-month online WWE Network.

The two satellite carriers did offer the more significant Wrestlemania XXX on April 6, though some operators reported that PPV buys were half of what Wrestlemania drew the year before. Wrestlemania XXX was the first event affected by the change.

Distributors have expenses associated with PPV events. They must meet marketing commitments, for example, to receive certain revenue splits. But for smaller events such as Extreme Rules, the commitments are not that substantial. This is more about DirecTV and Dish sending WWE a message, sources said.

Two WWE PPV events are scheduled for next month — Payback on June 1 and Money in the Bank on June 29 — and it is unknown at this time whether or not DirecTV and Dish will be on board. A DirecTV representative told The Wire no decision has been made, and the company will continue to evaluate WWE PPV shows “on an event-by-event basis.” Dish representatives did not comment by press time.

WWE’s second-biggest annual event, SummerSlam, comes later, in August.

The WWE, which earlier this month said it has more than 660,000 WWE Network subscribers, said it remains “open for business in an effort to provide our fans the choice between purchasing WWE Network or single PPV events.” It has said that if it signs up 1 million subscribers to the new service, that would make up any shortfall in PPV event revenue.

— R. Thomas Umstead