Despite Executive Drama A+E Will Stick to Script at Upfront

Even after the sudden departure of CEO Nancy Dubuc, the show must go on at A+E Networks.

Dubuc agreed to become CEO of Vice Media days before A+E’s upfront presentation to advertisers and media buyers at the New York Public Library on Thursday night (March 15).

Read More: B&C's Complete Coverage of the Upfronts

“It’s been a strange week for sure,” noted Peter Olsen, executive VP for ad sales at A+E.

Dubuc will not be at the upfront. In her place, delivering opening comments, will be Abbe Raven, named interim chair of A+E. It won’t be an unfamiliar role for Raven: She was Dubuc's predecessor and has spoken at dozens of A+E upfronts.

The theme of the event will remain the same, according to Olsen. It will feature the storytellers of A+E and its networks, and will focus on women. The speakers will focus on talent from A+E shows including stars Leah Remini and Toni Braxton.

“Everything else stays the same from a brand standpoint,” Olsen says. “The company’s always felt the only way you make real change is you’ve got to empower people to tell their stories, and that’s something we’ve believed in for decades.”

The way A+E will go to market won’t change either. After some tough years, Olsen sees A+E’s networks mainly in a position of strength this year. A&E’s ratings are up, boosted by PD Live. History was up in the fourth quarter, and the company is projecting it being up for the year. And Lifetime will be refocusing on made-for-TV movies, a strategy that has worked in the past.

When Olsen speaks at the end of the event, he’ll talk about the company’s work with research company Dataplusmath, which is behind Project Thor, which aims to show advertisers how much their investments in TV advertising pay off in sales. “Proving TV’s worth is something we feel strongly about,” he said.

Olsen is expecting this year’s upfront to be similar to last year’s strong market.

Ad dollars are coming back to TV from digital players like Facebook and YouTube because of questions about their effectiveness and brand safety.

“Scatter’s held up pretty well, and I think we’re still seeing a cable market that’s somewhat flattish, which is what we were expecting, but it’s not getting any worse,” he said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.