Finding the Art in Everything

Arts-themed network Ovation is looking to expand the breadth and depth of its programming lineup with the addition of new scripted shows, including passion projects from such stars as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Newly appointed senior vice president of programming and production Scott Woodward spoke to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about Ovation’s new shows, as well as its push into scripted fare, with both original and acquired projects. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: Will the network stick with its fine arts-themed programming or will you look to broaden your audience?

Scott Woodward: It’s clearly going to be arts-focused, in a way, but what I really care about is characters and the passion that the characters have in our shows. I care about getting really interesting storylines.

One of the new shows that we started shooting is Young Marvels, a 12-episode, half-hour series about young prodigies. For this series what I wanted to do is follow a number of characters through a period of time. We see their gift clearly, but I want to know about the person inside; I want to know if, when they go to school, are they able to make friends? What happens to the family dynamic when you’re parents of a truly exceptional child? That’s what I think will make this series compelling. … You’ll really find out the true stories of these kids. There’s really wonderful touch points that really examine not only the art but examine the touch point in the human experience.

We’ve also made a big commitment to a series called Art Of, which began last year. The network’s mantra is, art is everywhere, and we truly believe that. Through 37 episodes we’ve covered everything from street art to the art of sushi to the art of coffee-making and winemaking. We’ve been all over the world. We want to broaden things out a bit — when we talk art, yes, you can go into a museum, and we’re very supportive of our museum partners. But there are also all sorts of other aspects of art in our life that are important for the network to cover.

MCN: Where does scripted content fall in your programming plans?

SW: More important for us is beginning the development of scripted content we control. That’s really a first step for us. You’ll see that kind of content roll in for us in 2014 and 2015, but it’s something that we feel is very, very important for the network.

As far as scripted content, it will fall in two buckets. We will carry the best acquired content from Canada, Europe, Australia for U.S. premieres. We also have originals, like A Young Doctor’s Notebook with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. It’s interesting when you see true artists like that who have a passion project; we kind of dive into that also.

MCN: How much of your schedule will feature acquired programming from overseas?

SW: We’re really searching for those things that haven’t been seen here in the U.S. We have another show coming up called Big Ballet, which is an acquisition. One of the things we’ve done with acquisitions is look for the very best projects we can find and the most interesting projects we can find in Europe, and we’re really curating that as it fits into who and what Ovation is.

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.