Stepping UP Into Scripted Series

UP will step into the very crowded and competitive scripted-series arena with the August launch of its new drama series Ties That Bind.

Known more for family-friendly, inspirational original movies and reality shows, Ties That Bind, which starts Aug. 12, stars Kelli Williams (The Practice) as a woman who looks to balance her life as a hard-nosed detective and a single mom.

The show will be a key part of UP’s presentation during this week’s annual Television Critics Association summer tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. UP will be one of about 20 cable networks to introduce new original scripted series, reality shows, miniseries and documentaries as part of the three-day cable portion of the tour, presented by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing and beginning July 28.

UP’s first scripted series is a natural extension of its original movies strategy, senior vice president of original programming Barbara Fisher said.

“We recognize that it’s series that are defining networks these days,” she said. “While movies are the backbone of your network, it’s really series that bring attention to the network.”

Fisher said the drama series deals with some gritty issues, such as domestic abuse, divorce and crime — always within the network’s theme of uplifiting, family-friendly programming. The episodes always end with the family settling down to share a meal, she said, stressing the family values that typify the network’s brand.

Networks such as Hallmark Channel have shown that family-friendly series can draw an audience, Fisher said, adding that she hopes the dramatic themes in Ties That Bind will draw viewers looking for safe and entertaining programming.

“A lot of the shows that get a lot of the buzz that feature anti-heroes and dark themes don’t necessarily have as wide a viewing audience as you might think,” she said. “I think there’s a huge opportunity for networks such as ours to offer something that’s uplifting — we can be family-friendly and still be relevant.”

Fisher says that the network will look to roll out at least one more scripted series in 2016 and is looking at several candidates.

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.