Things Looking ‘Up’ for Family-Focused Net
Up TV specializes in positive content in an era that can feel pretty negative. “We Get Family,” goes its tagline, and Amy Winter, executive vice president and general manager, believes families will still watch together, if the content is right, at a time when kids increasingly disappear to their rooms, iPad in hand, to watch their own stuff.
Up TV, part of InterMedia Partners, is a true independent. Its shows are a mix of unscripted homegrown series, such as Bringing Up Bates and Expecting, and scripted off-network stuff, such as Parenthood and Gilmore Girls.
Winter came on board at Up TV in 2015 after a long run at TLC. She spoke with Multichannel News about the challenge of being independent in the age of scale, and why America is seeking out more positive television right now. An edited transcript follows.
MCN: You reached 100 episodes for Bringing Up Bates. Why is the Bates family attractive to viewers?
Amy Winter: They check so many boxes for TV entertainment in general and then specifically our brand. It’s 19 kids — there are kids of all ages going through a lot of different stages of life. We’ve got the older ones starting relationships, starting their own families. The younger ones are there for entertainment. That has been really the heart of the entertainment factor but I think what people keep coming back for is, they’re just a good family. They’re very funny and they give each other a hard time. In their hearts, in the way they live their lives, they’re people you can feel good for watching.
MCN: Any new shows that might battle Bringing Up Bates for ratings primacy?
AW: I’m very excited about the new night of content that we’re rolling out on Fridays. We’re calling it Life’s Biggest Moments. We’re starting with our baby shows — Expecting started [April 6] — we had a very encouraging start to the series. That follows the journey to parenthood. It is all self-shot [cast members do their own camera work], so it is remarkably intimate. We’ll move on to weddings in June, which we’re very excited about.
MCN: Is Up’s positive message a good thing right now in this country?
AW: It’s absolutely what sets us apart from the television landscape. Up’s positivity and uplifting content is being sought after specifically by the audience we’re talking to. We just completed the fourth phase of a study where we have identified an audience called Family in Mind. The No. 1 driver of what they want to see on television and what they’re not seeing enough of are shows they can share with family. What they want to share is positivity. What they want to do is collect everybody and sit down and watch together. I think we’re seeing proof of our promise to viewers. We’re always in the top 10 most co-viewed networks.
MCN: Do families still want to watch TV together?
AW: I believe so. The content mix that we do, we’re trying to entertain adults first. We hold our shows to that standard. We want to have you and your partner come to the set and watch together. But we’re also putting out shows that you can feel good about watching as an entire family. We are definitely seeing that happen as we engage with viewers.
MCN: Up does not have its own scripted series?
AW: There are no scripted shows currently planned but we do scripted movies. We focus most of them during the holiday time frame. Christmas is a big season for us — we’ll have seven original movies during that time.
MCN: Tell me about Up’s new streaming service.
AW: Up Faith & Family is our streaming service. It’s available on a number of different providers. Amazon has something like 200 channels and Up Faith & Family has cracked the top five on that service. We’re also rolling out direct-to-consumer and a number of other places as well.
MCN: What is it like as an independent network these days? Is it challenging?
AW: It’s challenging as an independent but it also energizes our team to be smarter and scrappier than anybody else. We find that we can go out and make relationships with some of the other independents out there. It really just energizes us to think a little bit differently than everybody else who’s in the portfolio game.
The smarter way to stay on top of the multichannel video marketplace. Sign up below.
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.