Upfronts 2014: Scripted Events and the 'E! Effect'

With its first scripted show, E! Entertainment President Suzanne Kolb says the network aims to create the kind of pop culture event it usually covers.

The show, The Royals (pictured left), is part of the Comcast-owned cable network's upfront presentation, parts of which will be shared with the press at an event in Manhattan Wednesday evening.

The network will be highlighting its new programming, as well as the affect that programming has on its viewers, whom the network views as hyper consumers itching to buy products and services depicted on the channel.

Kolb says she wants advertisers to know that the network is "the place that you come to if you want a pop culture fan." That includes the network's web site, which now generates 25 million unique visitors monthly.

"We believe all the content that we're putting forth, whether it's new reality franchises, new comedy franchises or bringing scripted into our mix of our air, that all of that will simply heighten what the audience already loves from E!, which is a place to escape, find inspiration and then in turn take all of that and turn it into conversation and consumption."

The Royals, starring Elizabeth Hurley, is expected to air early next year. The one-hour drama features a fictional British royal family in modern day London.

"We believe scripted can fit in beautifully because what it lets us do is tell stories that we couldn't tell in another form," Kolb said. "We know our audience is fascinated with the notion of royal families, but we're never going to be able to do a reality show about the royal family. So this gives us a great opportunity to tell really fascinating stories about the ultimate celebrity family, both their public lives and their private life in a way that we believe will fit into the fabric of E! cleanly."

Kolb (pictured right) doesn't expect scripted programming to take over E! in the coming years. Instead, the network will treat The Royals, and other scripted shows as special events. "Our audience responds really well to events on our air," she says.

Other new series upcoming from E! include: Escape Club, launching June 8, a reality show that sends 12 twenty-somethings on an escape to an exotic resort, and Botched, due in September 2014, an 8-episode one-hour series on extreme plastic surgery gone wrong.

New specials include Ryan Seacrest: Biggest Moment on the Radio; Live from the Red Carpet: iHeart Radio Music Awards, Worst Thing I Ever and Men of the Strip, from former MTV exec Brian Graden.

Scripted projects in development include the series Songbyrd, about a writer of love songs who can't figure out her own love life. The show is based on the experiences of Grammy winner Diane Warren. Another scripted project is the mini-series Gucci, about the relationship between Aldo Gucci, the son of the founder of the fashion house, and his longtime mistress Bruna Palombo.

Unscripted projects in development include: DVF, a docu-series in which eight associates in training vie for the opportunity to work with designer Diane Von Furstenberg; Christina Milian, a reality show following the singer's family and career; #RichKids of New York, which springs from the success of E!'s #RichKids of Beverly Hills; The Receipt, which tracks how a rich person ran up an insanely high bill over 24 hours; and Lance Bass Wedding, featuring the planning leading up to the nuptials of the former NSYNC member and actor-artist Michael Turchin.

Kolb says an increasing number of advertisers have been coming to E! to get integrated into shows.

"Overall we see it as a creative challenge to figure out really interesting ways to present brands to our audience in a way that gets them talking and gets them to have a greater affinity for that brand. It's a fun opportunity and something we think E is uniquely suited to do," she says. "Our audience, they like it. They like the idea of consuming. They are the ultimate shoppers, so from that respect I don't think our audience responds negatively at all to integrations. In fact, if we do them well, I think they really enjoy them."

In fact, Kolb says, sponsors enjoy an E! Effect when they advertise their brands on the network. "When we look at the audience, they are hyper consumers. We have seen time and time again that when something is featured on E! that they then buy," she said. "So putting aside engagement and looking at what actually activates you to do something, the E! audience is motivated to do something. And motivated to buy something. To go to something. And we see that as extra pixie dust that advertising on E! gives you as the E! Effect."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.