Stan Hubbard: Reelz’s ‘On Patrol: Live’ Won’t Be a ‘Woke’ ‘Live PD’

A&E's 'Live PD'
A&E's 'Live PD' (Image credit: A+E)

Reelz hopes this summer’s launch of On Patrol: Live, from the producers of the former A&E series Live PD, will help lure new viewers to the independently-owned cable network.

The series, which will follow police officers on patrol in real time, will provide the 15-year-old Reelz network with important and appealing live programming on Friday and Saturday nights, CEO Stan E. Hubbard said. On Patrol: Live comes two years after A&E canceled its ratings-strong Live PD in the wake of protests against the police after the murder of George Floyd.

Former Live PD host Dan Abrams will serve as host and executive producer for On Patrol: Live. Reelz has yet to set a specific premiere date for the series, which will join other police-themed series such as Cops and Cops Reloaded on the 40 million-subscriber service.

Hubbard recently spoke to Multichannel News about the strategy behind creating On Patrol: Live, as well as the value of live programming for linear cable networks in a crowded multiplatform television industry. An edited version of the discussion follows.  

MCN: Why do you feel a live law-enforcement show fits well with the Reelz brand?

Stan E. Hubbard

(Image credit: Reelz )

 Stan Hubbard: Our brand has evolved like all brands, but we are about real people, real stories and real celebrities. Some of our top shows like Autopsy: The Last Hours of …, where we dig into the last hours of a celebrity's life, do really well for us. So bringing in some law enforcement programming is a natural fit. When Live PD, Cops and all programs like it were dropped a couple years ago by most of the networks, it opened up some different opportunities. For the last year or so we've had Cops and Cops Reloaded on Reelz. We've more recently added Jail to the mix; that fits nicely in our brand. Based on the success of those programs we're a top-10 growth network. Then, when you get viewers coming for those things, they stay to watch our other programs that still define who we are. I think On Patrol: Live is a perfect fit for what we're doing and for us it's perfect programming in today's environment where live is what keeps viewers from drifting off to streaming and other platforms on a regular basis.

MCN: Why do you think the time is right now to bring a live law-enforcement show back to TV, and are you concerned about receiving any backlash? 

SH: When we brought Cops, Cops Reloaded and Jail to the network, we didn’t receive any backlash. What we heard from viewers were thank yous for bringing this back and not being afraid of it. We’re in 2022 and we as a country are divided politically, socially and culturally in so many ways. I hope at some point we get over that, but there are going to be some voices that say, what you are doing isn’t right, and there are going to be voices that say thanks for bringing it back and helping me find your channel. I think we’re a responsible network and a responsible company, and we do what we think is right. We did other things that people told us we shouldn’t have done and it worked out just fine. We picked up the Miss USA Pageant [in 2015 after NBC dropped the Donald Trump co-owned pageant] when it needed a home 11 days before it was going to air. We picked up the [A&E-dropped] Kennedys series [in 2011] when everybody said it was too hot to touch, but once it aired it wasn’t a really big deal and it was a really good program. 

MCN: What will viewers see with On Patrol: Live

SH: With the show, the viewer gets to participate in being with those officers as they are doing their job, given what policing has become in 2022. We're going to get out there and show it, and it’s going to be transparent. We're adding some interesting elements to the show with some viewer ride alongs and responses. It’s not gonna be a woke program — we're not trying to bow to anybody. This is going to be a real live look at the state of policing in 2022 and beyond.

MCN: Do you see an opportunity to extend the Reelz brand beyond linear TV? 

SH: We’re streaming now. You can go to Samsung TV and other distributors and get our app, but it’s not the live network. As an independent, we can’t risk trying to go around our distributors. If we were one of the big six programming companies, we could do it. As an independent, Reelz is trapped in linear TV. We know what helps distributors keep their linear subscribers and keep viewership on their system instead of going off to streaming is live TV. We’re not going to compete for NFL football or pro hockey, but we are bringing six hours of really-high-profile live TV every week to those systems, and I think it's going to help subscribership. It’s going to give people a reason to stick around on their cable, satellite and telco systems. I'm hopeful that we're gonna find some more distributors who want to melt down some of the tiers they have us on or others that don't carry us. We’re probably punching above our weight for an independent, but we’re going to do it. ■

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.