‘Re-Engineering’ TV Guide Network

A late-night talk show and a
weeknight entertainment-news show are
some of the original programming projects
on the drawing board for TV Guide Network
over the next year, as it looks to complement
its lineup of off -network sitcoms
and tent-pole specials with original fare.

Executive vice president of programming
and marketing Diane Robina, who took the
programming reins at the more than 80 million
subscriber TV Guide Network in January,
told Multichannel News she’s looking to
“re-engineer” the brand through development
of entertainment-based original and
acquired programming that appeals to the
channel’s core female viewers.

Key elements of the plan are under development
for 2011: A daily stripped entertainment
and celebrity-driven news show, and a
daily late-night series.

The late-night project, which could be a
panel-driven talk show revolving around
the latest developments in entertainment,
will target female viewers. Most current late
night content doesn’t serve that demographic,
Robina said.

“With the exception of [E!’s] Chelsea Lately,
most late-night programming is targeted
to men, even though women overall watch
more television than men,” she said.

Robina said the network’s owner companies,
producer Lionsgate and private-equity
firm One Equity Partners will support opportunities
to develop original content and provide
funds to buy quality off -network shows
and series to bolster the Nielsen results.

“We’re taking an existing, iconic brand and
reengineering it,” she said. “But at the core it’s
about television — it’s about people like me
who eat, sleep and watch television.”

The original series would coincide with
the network’s ratings-rich red-carpet specials
built around major award shows, as
well as standalone programs, such as The
25 Greatest TV Blunders
and I Dreamed a
Dream: The Susan Boyle Story,
the network’s
highest-rated special.

Also key to the plan are high-profile, off - network acquisitions such as HBO’s Curb
Your Enthusiasm
, Showtime’s Weeds and
ABC’s Ugly Betty.

Curb episodes kick off this Wednesday
(June 2) at 10 p.m., with six- to eight-minute
original shorts airing after each episode
featuring a panel of celebrities discussing
the show’s content. Curb will air weekly on
Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Hosted by comedienne and series regular
Susie Essman, Curb: The Discussion panels
feature such stars as Jon Hamm, D.L Hughley,
Adam Carolla and Rob Zombie.

“For any good network in transition, you
look for good acquisitions using brands that
people already know; you create tent-pole
events, like our red-carpet events; and you
develop brand-defining originals,” she said.

The network hopes the addition of Curb
will provide a boost in primetime. During
the first quarter of 2010, TV Guide Network
averaged 209,000 viewers in that time slot,
down 4% from the 218,000 averaged in the
same period a year ago.

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.