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Up Aims to Be New Network for Families

With ABC Family rebranding as Freeform this year, independent cable network Up sees an opening in the family programming space.

The net, which launched as Gospel Music Channel before becoming Up in 2013, isn’t aiming for family viewing. Instead, it’s programming shows about families, targeting younger adults at that moment when their focus shifts from “me to we,” says GM Amy Winter. The network this week is launching a new slogan: We Get Family.

Up is adding off-network shows Parenthood and Gilmore Girls to its schedule, which includes original reality shows about large families; Growing Up McGhee, which previously appeared on OWN; and Bringing Up Bates. Since it began reshaping its programming, the median age of UP’s viewers has fallen nine years, to 44.

While the network decided to keep the Up name, the strategy change comes at a key time. Consumers are cord shaving ,looking for skinnier bundles of programming, and independent networks with little corporate leverage are the ones distributors are likely to be among the first dropped.

“At a time of skinny bundles it’s time to be in a fat category, and there’s nothing bigger or more relatable,” says Charley Humbard, CEO of UP. “It is a perfect time for us to be making this move.”

Up is also looking at alternative distribution. It is on Comcast’s Streampix and looking at direct-to-consumer options, says Humbard.

“It is the perfect time for us to be making this move,” he says.

The new direction should also be popular in the advertising market. A few years back the network did a study with Nielsen and media agency Mediavest that identified.42 million adults seeking this type of family programing. Last month, the network and Scripps Networks Interactive did a study with Nielsen that found commercial running in a family programming scored 27% higher in interest in products, attention to brands and purchase intent.

To publicize the new direction, Up is also launching a larger promo campaign.  Spots show scenes from Up shows featuring relatable family moments interspersed with the networks message of “Been there? Done That? It’s OK…We’re all Family here. Spend some time with ours.”

Up is owned by privately-held InterMedia Partners. Humbard said the network will pay for the new programming and ad campaign out of the network’s earnings. “We’ve been growing double-digits every year,” he says.