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WE Scripts a Shift To Younger Viewers

Eyeing more younger viewers and a further expansion of its advertising base, WE: Women's Entertainment will develop its first scripted series and original movie as part of an ambitious 2002-03 original programming slate.

Overall, the network plans eight new series, 10 specials and three original films for its new lineup, WE executive vice president Marty von Ruden said.

Set to bow in November, "alternative reality" program The Tinsley Bumble Show
will parody the genre.

"We follow the rules of reality television but we put in fictional characters," von Ruden said. "It's a spoof on reality shows."

In 2002, the network doubled its subscriber base to some 52 million homes, while adding more than 85 advertisers, including Sears, CVS, Victoria's Secret, Revlon cosmetics, and insurance companies Prudential and Geico.

Budget's up

As a result, WE's budget has increased "significantly," though von Ruden would not reveal specific figures. Kagan World Media projected that WE will commit more than $58.8 million to its 2003-04 original programming slate, versus $55 million last year.

"The emphasis on the channel has been to lighten up the content and provide more comedy," von Ruden said. "With 52 million homes and a great target audience, we can launch into scripted series and raise the bar into the type of programs that we can do."

The new shows will help the network attract younger viewers, said von Ruden. Its median age is 42.

"I think the core viewer now is around 30- to 34-years-old, due to our original programming like Single in the City
and specials like Young, Sexy & Royal, " he said. "
Our new shows will hopefully continue that trend."

More reality fare

WE will unveil Diva Detectives, a reality series that follows the lives of a Las Vegas-based, all-female detective agency.

Also on tap: the previously announced Bridezilla, a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences of soon-to-be-wives; the Courteney Cox-produced lifestyle makeover series Mix It Up; and Full Frontal Fashion, which formerly aired on parent Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.'s MetroTV channel.

The series joins returning WE series When I Was a Girl
and Single in …, which next season will profile single women in Las Vegas and South Beach, Calif.

In November, von Ruden said the network will debut its first original movie, Between Strangers, starring Sophia Loren (in her 100th film), Mira Sorvino and Deborah Kara Unger as three female artists who break free of the pasts that bind them.

The network will develop two more original dramatic movies.