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A&E boosting DeBitetto

Cabler ups programmer to exec veep

NEW YORK — A&E has promoted Bob DeBitetto to executive VP of programming.

Appointment comes as the cabler’s programming has attracted tens of thousands of fresh viewers in the network’s target demo.

These adults 25-54, as well as viewers in younger demo categories, started checking out A&E last year, a momentum that’s continued into 2005. In February, A&E was up by 10% among the 25-54 crowd, by 23% among 18-49ers and by 65% among the 18-34 set. The January increases were even gaudier: 29% with 25-54, 42% with 18- 49 and 65% with 18-34.

The importance of this demographic shift is that Madison Avenue, which prefers to aim its advertising at the harder-to-reach younger viewers, is paying bigger rates for time on A&E.

Network prexy Abbe Raven gives DeBitetto credit for the channel’s resurgence, citing his steady hand in the development of such reality series as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” “Growing up Gotti,” “The First 48” and “Airline.”

DeBitetto also spearheaded the negotiations that will bring reruns of “24” to A&E in the fall and of “The Sopranos” in September 2006. He commissions original movies as well, including last year’s hits “Ike: Countdown to D-Day” and “The Riverman,” and the forthcoming “Faith of Our Fathers,” a biopic about Sen. John McCain.

Raven said the next major area DeBitetto will plunge into is the development of domestically produced scripted series, which have not shown up on A&E since Sidney Lumet’s Gotham-based courthouse drama “100 Centre Street” ran for 31 episodes in 2001-02. The network is going ahead with another season of the “MI5” spy melodrama, which partner the BBC produces in England.

DeBitetto joined A&E in January 2003 as senior veep of programming after seven years as an executive at TNT in Los Angeles, where he rose to president of original programming.

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