Upfronts: UP On Board with More Original Series, Telefilms

New York -- Nearly a year after its relaunch as UP TV, the former GMC TV/Gospel Music Channel is seeing results from its shift to a broader programming menu.

Lisa Fischer, executive vice president of advertising sales, maintains that UP’s lack of specific religious affiliation has helped the new network reach a wider audience.

“UP is an expert on its growing audience of family-friendly viewers who are seeking a destination for uplifting entertainment programming,” said Fischer during an upfront press presentation, aboard the network’s executive bus that was parked alongside Manhattan’s Bryant Park on Tuesday night. 

The 67 million-subscriber network, projecting to 73 million homes by 2015, is spearheaded by drama Heartland, now in its sixth season.

UP has several original movies slated for premieres in the coming months, including Life of a King, which stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. as an ex-felon who establishes a chess club for inner city youth, and Noah, the network’s first biblical epic.

"We produce more family-friendly movies than any other television network,” said Fischer.

In addition to its current shows and upcoming movies, the network is expected to preview at least two new original series to advertisers. 

“During this upfront season, we are offering a compelling and ambitious slate of contemporary entertainment viewers will enjoy, distributors will welcome and that advertisers will embrace. We anticipate a very strong 2014-15 upfront,” Fischer said. 

Despite the expansion of its program palette, UP still airs Christian content, an approach carrying over from its nine years of gospel music heritage. From April 7 until April 20, the network will air 21 Bible-related movies and miniseries as part of its annual Easter programming block. On April 13, the network will become the first to air The Passion of the Christ on commercial television. 

The Easter programming will conclude with the premiere of Apple Mortgage Cake, an original movie based on the true story of Angela Logan (Kimberly Elise), a single mother who mortgages her home to start a cake business. 

Fischer hopes that the success of UP will carry over to sister network ASPiRE, which was launched in June 2012 by Magic Johnson Enterprises.

ASPiRE is targeted towards an African-American audience, but strives to air positive, family-friendly programming similar to the content found on UP. 

“It’s a niche network,” Fischer said, explaining the network’s average age is around 41, “We’re a little bit older than BET and a little bit younger than TV One.” 

The network’s upcoming original programming schedule includes season two of Exhale, which Fischer described as “like The View,” and a third season of ABFF Independent, the franchise that features films and documentaries from emerging black artists. 

Johnson, the network’s majority owner, is also scheduled to appear in a quarterly show called Magic In The Making, which will feature the Hall of Fame basketball player in conversation with various personalities. 

He also holds a minority stake in UP TV.