Cabler capsules

A&E
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Nick Davatzes (A&E Television Networks); Abbe Raven
Head of programming: Robert De-Bitetto
Top originals: Dog the Bounty Hunter, Growing Up Gotti, The First 48, Family Plots, Airline
Upcoming originals: Intervention (series), Knievel’s Wild Ride (series), Inked (series), Criss Angel (series), Being …(series), Roller Girls (series), Faith of My Fathers (movie)
The skinny: A&E threw down the gauntlet in January, forking over $195 million to HBO for rerun rights to “The Sopranos,” outbidding We Know Drama cabler TNT in the process. Formerly highbrow arty cabler became “the art of entertainment” network last year and gained traction with younger auds with shows about Gotham gossip queen Victoria Gotti, a family-run mortuary and an out-of-the-ordinary bounty hunter. More real-life series are on the way and ripped-from-the-headlines telepic “Blackout,” about the New York power outage.

ABC Family
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Paul Lee
Head of programming: Kate Juergens
Top originals: Snow, Crimes of Fashion, Celeste in the City (movies)
Upcoming originals: Beautiful People (series), Las Vegas Garden of Love (series), Looks of Love (series)
The skinny: ABC Family has long made up for the misfires of 2003 (“Dance Fever,” “Perfect Match” and never-aired “Domestic Goddess”) with strongly performing acquisitions “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville,” “Full House” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Now, under the aegis of Paul Lee, ABC Family is re-embarking into original series that embrace families “in all their diversity and dysfunction.” Docusoap “Las Vegas Garden of Love” is up first and follows the day-to-day of a family-run Vegas chapel. Net’s first scripted hour, “Beautiful People” — about a single mom and her two daughters — will premiere later in the summer.

AMC
Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Josh Sapan (Rainbow Media); Ed Carroll (Rainbow
Entertainment)
Head of programming: Robert Sorcher
Top originals: Sunday Morning Shootout, Movie Club With John Ridley
Upcoming originals: Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (doc), Hollywood Vietnam (doc), Good Cop, Bad Cop (doc), The Suite (series)
The skinny: AMC achieved highest primetime ratings ever in 2004, marking double-digit gains in households, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 vs. 2003. This year will mark the bow of a new entertainment talk show, “The Suite,” hosted by Entertainment Weekly correspondent Dave Karger, to complement successful talkers “Sunday Morning Shootout,” hosted by Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart and Mandalay Entertainment chairman Peter Guber, and “Movie Club With John Ridley.”

BET
Subscribers: 79 million
Network topper: Debra Lee (president); Robert Johnson (CEO)
Heads of programming: Nina Henderson Moore, Stephen Hill, Gina Holland
Top originals: 106 & Park, Comicview, College Hill, Bobby Jones Gospel
Upcoming originals: Rip the Runway (special), Fatty Koo (series), The Interns (series)
The skinny: It’s a celebratory year at the leading television network for African-Americans as BET turned 25 on Jan. 25. To mark the occasion, cabler unveiled a new logo and tagline (It’s My Thing) and will broadcast a 25th anniversary special in November. Also on deck are the net’s annual BET Awards (which pulled in 5.6 million viewers last year) and BET Comedy Awards. The channel continues its wide array of original programs, including black reality series “College Hill,” and will add “Fatty Koo” and “The Interns” this summer.

Bravo
Subscribers: 78 million
Network topper: Lauren Zalaznick
Heads of programming: Lauren Zalaznick, Frances Berwick
Top originals: Project Runway, Showbiz Moms and Dads, Blowout, Celebrity Poker Showdown, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Upcoming originals: Project Greenlight (series), Showdog Moms & Dads (series), Sports Kids Moms and Dads (series), Being Bobby Brown (series), Situation: Comedy (series), Hidden Howie (series)
The skinny: Things are looking up for Bravo, which seemed to be struggling in the shadow of last year’s phenom “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Laffers “Things I Hate About You,” “Significant Others” and Ewan McGregor’s “Long Way Round” came and went without fanfare. Worse still, “Queer Eye for the Straight Gal” can’t seem to find a following. But latest debut, fashion designer competish “Project Runway,” has people buzzing about Bravo again. It should get some help with a show about real-life train wreck Bobby Brown and more “Moms & Dads” on the way.

Cartoon Network
Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Jim Samples
Head of programming: Bob Higgins
Top originals: Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, Teen Titans, Atomic Betty, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Codename: Kids Next Door, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
Upcoming originals: Krypto the Superdog (series), Life and Times of Juniper Lee (series), My Gym Partner Is a Monkey (series), Camp Lazlo (series)
The skinny: After a sluggish fourth quarter, Cartoon’s ratings took off in the new year, jumping 30% among kids 6-11. Exec VP Samples has tried, with some success, to broaden Cartoon’s appeal beyond the minitestosterone set with new shows such as “Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi” and “Atomic Betty.” The Adult Swim block is thriving, up 50% among young adults in some weeks. New in 2005 is a preschool block, Tickle U, five fresh animated series and Movement Ink, a series of interprogram pieces that promotes healthy lifestyles.

CNBC
Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Mark Hoffman
Head of programming: Bob Meyer
Top originals: Closing Bell, Morning Call, Street Signs, Power Lunch, Squawk Box, Kudlow & Kramer
The skinny: CNBC has hit something akin to the Great Depression, although NBC brass insists the financial news net can be turned around. Peacock recently put Mark Hoffman in charge, with longtime topper Pamela Thomas Graham quietly stepping aside. Net’s attempt to jazz up primetime has lagged, with John McEnroe’s talkshow quickly booted. Reruns of Conan O’Brien’s latenight show haven’t drummed up great interest, while McEnroe’s replacement, “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch,” hasn’t fared well either. One thing that can be taken to the bank: Hoffman is sure to make some programming changes, particularly with Fox News’ Roger Ailes planning a competing financial news net.

CNN
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Jim Walton
Head of programming: Jonathan Klein
Top originals: Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, NewsNight With Aaron Brown
The skinny: CNN has undergone another management shakeup in the hunt to recover its previous glory, putting Klein in charge of programming. He promptly declared that he was returning CNN proper to its hard-news roots, but so far, he hasn’t been able to make any gains on Fox News. In another major shift, CNN Headline News launched programming block “Headline Prime,” featuring three new shows, the entertainment-centric “Showbiz Tonight,” legal news program “Nancy Grace” and national show “Prime News Tonight.”

Comedy Central
Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Doug Herzog
Head of programming: Lauren Corrao
Top originals: Chappelle’s Show, South Park, Drawn Together, Reno 911!, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Upcoming originals: The Hollow Men (series), Con (series), Stella (series)
The skinny: Nothing was bigger in basic cable last year than the rich deal Dave Chappelle struck with Comedy Central to bring back his satirical sketch show for two more seasons. Ratings for the sophomore season were through the roof in the spring, dovetailing nicely with the “The Daily Show’s” presidential election coverage, which scored host Jon Stewart profiles in every major newspaper and glossy mag. Chappelle and Stewart managed to overshadow missteps “Wanda Does It” and “The Graham Norton Effect.” Cabler will next tackle its first live-action scripted series in recent years, “Stella,” from the trio behind “Wet Hot American Summer.”

Court TV
Subscribers: 82 million
Network topper: Henry Schleiff
Head of programming: Marc Juris
Top originals: Forensic Files, Dominick Dunne: Power, Privilege and Justice, Psychic Detectives
Upcoming originals: Impossible Heists (series), The Chase (series), Takedown: Casino (series)
The skinny: As the media once again focuses on big celebrity trials, Court TV — which now boasts the tagline the Investigation Channel — has benefited from the residual effect. Cabler’s primetime lineup, led by the net’s signature “Forensic Files,” is up 15% among viewers and 33% with adults 18-49. Net has been promoting the growing celebrity of “Closing Arguments” host Nancy Grace, who recently began hosting a second show on CNN Headline News. Its daytime fare also scored big numbers in the fall thanks to the conclusion of Scott Peterson case, even though cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom. Court TV is expanding in the longform arena: Net recently aired its latest telepic, “The Exonerated,” and acquired rights to the Rupert Murray doc “Unknown White Male,” which played at Sundance.

Discovery Channel
Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Billy Campbell
Head of programming: Jane Root
Top originals: American Chopper, Monster Garage, Monster House, MythBusters
Upcoming originals: Supervolcano (special), Greatest American (series), World’s Deadliest Season (series), To Catch a Thief (series)
The skinny: All things big and manly — motorcycles, houses, cars — have replaced sharks and lions as the iconic symbols of Discovery Channel. Discovery nets chief Billy Campbell wanted edgier fare than “a cheetah running in a savanna.” Primetime aud climbed 12% among adults 18-49 in 2004 and the net’s audience got younger even as Campbell had to defend the new direction as being true to the brand. Root, who arrived a year ago from the U.K., is steering Discovery toward more scripted series, such as the hit docudrama about Pompeii in January, because docs are getting more expensive. “Greatest American” should glean the net major ink in June when viewers can name their choice after watching 100 videos over seven hours. New reality shows will center on crab fishermen and house robbers.

Disney Channel
Subscribers: 85 million
Network topper: Rich Ross
Head of programming: Gary Marsh
Top originals: That’s So Raven, Phil of the Future, American Dragon: Jake Long
Upcoming originals: The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (series), Disney’s Little Einsteins (series), The Buzz on Maggie (series), Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama (movie)
The skinny: What comes up must come down describes Disney’s fourth-quarter outing as the net’s share of kids 2-11 tumbled by 9% one year after it exploded by 36% when tween girls flocked to “Lizzie McGuire,” “Kim Possible” and “That’s So Raven.” This season’s new shows weren’t failures, but rivals Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network poached some of Disney’s core aud when they debuted softer scripted series. Disney tried to woo more boys with new fare such as “Phil of the Future” and “American Dragon: Jake Long.” Still, the net’s share points remained 23% higher than two years ago. Disney is betting big on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” a March premiere with the identical Sprouse twins as boys who move into a swank hotel where their mom sings.

E!
Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Ted Harbert
Heads of programming: Ted Harbert, Lisa Berger (development)
Top originals: True Hollywood Story, Dr. 90210, Gastineau Girls
Upcoming originals: Hollywood Hold ‘Em (series), My Crazy Life (series), The 50 Steamiest Southern Stars (special), Hollywood High School (special)
The skinny: Harbert’s first at bat — heavily marketed Wayne Newton reality show “The Entertainer” — struck out. But exec’s got plenty more to draw entertainment-philes. “Gastineau Girls,” centered on the exploits of mother-daughter socialites, is off to a modest start, while “Hollywood Hold ‘Em” looks to capitalize on the poker craze. A possible “Dr. 90210” franchise is in the works and a celebrity-authorized bio series, “My Crazy Life,” has already got the cooperation of A-lister Samuel Jackson. But what E! is really hoping will connect are its daily Michael Jackson trial re-enactments, the only way interested folks can virtually watch the circus as it takes place.

ESPN
Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: George Bodenheimer
Head of programming: Mark Shapiro
Top originals: Tilt, Pardon the Interruption, SportsCenter, Cold Pizza, Around the Horn
Upcoming originals: ESPN Hollywood (series), Quite Frankly (series) Jim Rome Is Burning (series), untitled Jack Johnson biopic (movie)
The skinny: Sports fans continue to make ESPN their daily destination, whether it be for “SportsCenter” or a ballgame. Ratings for men 18-34 are up 11% from a year ago. “Sunday Night Football” continues to be its highest-rated program and the Bristol, Conn.-based network recently launched a new offshoot, ESPNU, which will feature nothing but college sports. As far as the talking heads go, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Stephen A. Smith will be in front of the camera more than ever this year, offering up his insights on the NBA and other hot topics.

Food Network
Subscribers: 85 million
Network topper: Brooke Johnson
Heads of programming: Kathleen Finch, Bob Tuschman
Top originals: Barefoot Contessa, 30-Minute Meals, Semi-Home Made Cooking, Easy Entertaining With Chiarello, Inside Dish With Rachel Ray
Upcoming originals: Take It Off (series), Dave’s Deal (series), The Next Food Network Star (specials), All Star Kitchen Makeover (specials)
The skinny: It’s not only gourmets who are dishing over the fare at Food. Net’s subscriber base is up 3 million from 2004 and total day ratings are up over 5%. There is no shortage of new programs coming onboard: A new “Iron Chef” series just launched and the net is bringing its A-list chefs — Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay among them — for “All Star Kitchen Makeover” in August to help viewers remake their cooking spaces.

Fox News Channel
Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Roger Ailes
Head of programming: Bill Shine
Top originals: The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, The Fox Report With Shepard Smith, On the Record With Greta Van Susteren
The skinny: Fox News continues to dominate the cable news biz and roll right over its competish. In January, it beat all its competitors combined for the sixth month in primetime. It also continued to boast nine of the top 10 cable news programs. While the other cable news nets continue to rearrange their lineups and shake up their exec suites, Fox News is going about business as usual. Well, except for the spinoff financial cable news net that has the biz abuzz with speculation. The competish may gripe all they want about Fox News, but the house that Roger built shows no signs of faltering.

FSN
Subscribers: 81 million
Network topper: Bob Thompson
Head of programming: George Greenberg
Top originals: Best Damn Sports Show Period, Beyond the Glory
Upcoming originals: Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament
(series)
The skinny: FSN (net no longer uses the Fox Sports Net moniker) has failed to develop any new hit original programs since BDSSP for its 20-plus owned or affiliated regional sports nets. More worrisome is the competition that continues to loom from teams and operators who want more control over lucrative but pricey sports rights. FSN lost the best Chicago teams to a new Comcast-led service and suffered setbacks in Denver, Sacramento and Charlotte, although it did beat back similar uprisings in a handful of other cities. New York affiliate FSNY finally sorted out its messy situation with Cablevision but will be hurting when the Mets leave in 2006 to start their own channel. More pluses include FSN reporting modest ratings growth in 2004 and suffering little short-term damage from the NHL lock-out.

FX
Subscribers: 85 million
Network topper: Peter Liguori
Head of programming: John Landgraf
Top originals : The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me
Upcoming originals: Over There (series), Thief (series), 30 Days (series), Starved (series), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (series)
The skinny: FX has had little to complain about as of late. Year-end ratings shot up 20% in primetime 18-49 delivery and the cabler celebrated Golden Globe noms for three of its lead actors — Denis Leary, Julian McMahon and Michael Chiklis — and a win for drama. Numbers for “The Shield” slipped, but bets are on the show to rebound with the addition of Glenn Close in its fourth season. This summer will see the introduction of an original comedy block and shows from award-winning documentarian Morgan Spurlock and prolific producer Steven Bochco.

GSN
Subscribers: 56 million
Network topper: Rich Cronin
Head of programming: Ian Valentine
Top originals: Poker Royale, Celebrity Blackjack, Extreme Dodgeball
Upcoming originals: No Limit Nine Ball (series), Anything to Win (series)
The skinny: GSN, the network formerly known as the Game Show Network, continues to struggle as it looks to find its voice. Net has found success in tackling the exploding interest in card games (branding Fridays Casino Night), including its “Poker Royale” franchise as well as “Celebrity Blackjack” and “World Series of Blackjack.” Cabler acquired skeins “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Dog Eat Dog” to air in prime. Valentine joined the net last year to help refocus GSN’s programming to encompass all things games, and broaden beyond the net’s former gameshow-centric focus. Among the cabler’s big recent pushes has been the horseracing-themed “American Dream Derby.”

Hallmark Channel
Subscribers: 68 million
Network topper: David J. Evans,
Head of programming: David Kenin
Top originals: Hallmark Channel Mystery Movie franchises (Mystery Woman, McBride, Jane Doe)
Upcoming originals: Thicker Than Water (movie), Out of the Woods (movie), Back to You & Me (movie), Frederick Forsyth’s Icon (miniseries), Fielder’s Choice (movie), Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island (miniseries), Supernova (miniseries)
The skinny: Hallmark Channel’s programming mix of original movies and miniseries, off-network acquisitions and library exploitation continues to pay royal dividends to parent company Crown Media Holdings. Net is one of the fastest growing on cable, with 68 million subs repping a 21% increase from January 2004. Hallmark’s new Mystery Movie franchises scored big on Fridays in January, with the four original telepic preems each averaging over 1 million households, improving the time-period average 92% from fourth quarter 2004 and powering the cabler to the best January primetime ratings in its history. An aggressive rollout of the Hallmark Movie Channel is an important element of this year’s strategy to lure more viewers.

HBO
Subscribers: 28 million
Network topper: Chris Albrecht
Head of programming: Carolyn Strauss, Colin Callender, Ross Greenburg, Sheila Nevins
Top originals: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Wire, Carnivale, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Unscripted
Upcoming originals: Rome (series), The Comeback (series), Big Love (series), Sometimes in April (movie), Warm Springs (movie), Empire Falls (movie)
The skinny: With “Sex and the City” gone, and “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” entering their final seasons, it’s a transition period for the behemoth pay cabler. While “The Wire,” whose fate hasn’t yet been determined, has a passionate fan base, ratings are less than stellar. “Deadwood” opened season two strong and Albrecht is hoping the Western can become the next “Sopranos.” The Lisa Kudrow starrer “The Comeback” (debuting in summer) sounds promising, while the very expensive “Rome,” co-financed with the BBC, is one of the biggest gambles in the net’s history. HBO is also hoping the Emmys don’t eliminate the movie category from the kudocast, as the cabler dominates the genre and the kudocast often turns into a night of free advertising.

HGTV
Subscribers: 87million
Network topper: Burton Jablin
Head of programming: Michael Dingley
Top originals: Househunters, Design on a Dime, Designers’ Challenge
Upcoming originals: reDesign (series), Get Color! (series)
The skinny: HGTV, which remains a hugely profitable member of Scripps Networks’ stable of lifestyle channels, continues to add additional design shows. Net also rang in the new year with strong numbers, as its coverage of the Tournament of Roses parade scored the channel’s second-highest ratings. HGTV recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and parent Scripps celebrated the net’s success by expanding HGTV prexy Burton Jablin’s role to work with all of the company’s outlets. Shows such as “Designed to Sell” helped the cabler hit ratings highs last year.

History Channel
Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Dan Davids; Nickolas Davatzes, A&E TV Networks
Head of programming: Charlie Maday
Top originals: Digging for the Truth, Mail Call, Modern Marvels
Upcoming originals: Meteors: Fire in the Sky (special), FDR: A Presidency Revealed (special), Automaniac (series)
The skinny: The History Channel’s $6.5 million acquisition of exclusive basic cable rights to HBO’s “Band of Brothers” paid off with record ratings in April and an Alexander the Great special timed to the release of “Alexander” was more successful for the cabler than the Oliver Stone picture was for Warner Bros. Next up are more high-profile specials on historical figures, CGI-enhanced docus on meteors, the evolution of man and an original series about cars hosted by wrestler Bill Goldberg.

IFC
Subscribers: 32 million
Network topper: Evan Shapiro
Heads of programming: Alison Palmer Bourke, Debbie DeMontreux
Top originals: Dinner for Five, Ultimate Film Fanatic, Henry’s Film
Corner
Upcoming originals: Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (doc), Punk: Attitude (doc), Wanderlust (doc)
The skinny: Exec VP and general manager Evan Shapiro has already given the indie film net a makeover and a new tagline: TV Uncut. His next challenge is finding IFC’s first original scripted series to build on the success of its Friday night original programming block. IFC also signed an output deal with hot indie distrib Fox Searchlight and continues to commission film geek-friendly docus such as “Z Channel,” which premiered at last year’s Cannes film fest, and “Wanderlust,” from “American Splendor” filmmakers Sheri Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

Lifetime
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Carole Black
(interim)
Head of programming: Rick Haskins (interim)
Top originals: Missing, Strong
Medicine
Upcoming originals: I Married a Princess (series), Mom at Sixteen (movie), Odd Girl Out (movie)
The skinny: Long on the hunt for a programming chief, Lifetime owners Hearst and Disney are narrowing down the candidates to replace prexy-CEO Carole Black, who announced she was ankling at the end of March. Cabler for the past two years has been on a downward rating slide, but is seeing some lift from reality series “How Clean Is Your House” and a revamped “Missing,” starring Vivica A. Fox. Next up on the agenda is rejuvenating primetime with some sexy skeins from the likes of Sally Robinson (HBO’s “Iron Jawed Angels”) and Efrem Seegers (“Queer as Folk”) to replace recently axed “Wild Card” and “The Division.”

MSNBC
Subscribers: 82
million
Network topper: Rick Kaplan
Heads of programming: Phil Griffin, Mark Effron
Top originals: Hardball With Chris Matthews, Imus in the Morning, Countdown With Keith Olberman
Upcoming originals: Tucker Carlson project
The skinny: Under Rick Kaplan’s leadership, the decidedly No. 3 cable news net continues to move cautiously in making major programming changes, although it recently bowed three new shows after months of planning and plotting. Reagan dynasty member Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley are hosting the nooner “Connected Coast to Coast,” while Sharon Tay and Claudia DiFolco are hosting Saturday and Sunday entertainment shows “MSNBC at the Movies” and “MSNBC Entertainment Hot List.” Conservative commentator Tucker Carson has inked a deal to host a new 9 p.m. weeknight show, which is still in development.

MTV
Subscribers: 90
million
Network topper: Van Toffler
Head of programming: Brian Graden
Top originals: The Real World, My Super Sweet 16, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica
Upcoming originals: Trippin’ (series), PoweR Girls (series), Wild ‘n Out (series), That ’70s House (series), Meet the Barkers (series)
The skinny: For the first time in a long while, MTV’s 18-49 numbers were flat in year-end tallies. Still, a second “Newlyweds” spinoff, “The Nick Lachey Show,” and “Meet the Barkers” (a mix of “Newlyweds” and “The Osbournes”) are on the way. Fresh to the table will be Cameron Diaz-hosted “Trippin’,” which trails a rotating group of celebs as they embark to ecologically challenged areas for a crash course in environmental issues. Also, “Drumline’s” Nick Cannon will emcee a comedy improv show “Wild ‘n Out” in which participants duke it out street style, and “That ’70s House” will take today’s teens and stick them in a ’70s-era mansion to see if they can function.

Nick at Nite/TV Land
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Larry Jones
Head of programming: Mitchell Semel
Top originals: Fatherhood (Nick), TV Land Top 10
Upcoming originals: Chasing Farrah (series, TV Land), Search for America’s Funniest Mom (special, Nick), TV Land Awards (special)
The skinny: Nick at Nite and 24-hour spinoff TV Land hit highs in 2004: Nick had its highest-rated and most-watched year among adults 18-49. TV Land rung up its best year in total viewers. Both cablers achieved that success with a mix of traditional off-net reruns and increased original programming. Looking ahead, the nets will unveil second seasons of animated Bill Cosby laffer “Fatherhood” and countdown show “Top 10.” TV Land will add reality series “Chasing Farrah,” starring Farrah Fawcett.

Nickelodeon
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Cyma Zarghami
Heads of programming: Marjorie Cohn, Brown Johnson
Top originals: Zoey 101, Unfabulous, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, The Fairly OddParents, Dora the Explorer
Upcoming originals: Catscratch (series), The X’s (series), The Power Strikers (series)
The skinny: Zarghami continues to run a steady ship as Nick has had no problems maintaining its healthy lead in the competitive kids marketplace. Britney’s sister Jamie Lynn Spears is bringing in big numbers with hot new show “Zoey 101,” as Nick’s live-action programming — not offered by Cartoon Network — helps put it in a dominant position. In ages 6-11, Nick (without sister station Nick Jr.) defeats a resilient Cartoon by 65%.

Oxygen
Subscribers: 54 million
Network topper: Geraldine Laybourne
Head of programming: Debby Beece
Top originals: Oprah After the Show, Girls Behaving Badly, Talk Sex With Sue Johanson
Upcoming originals: Mr. Romance (series), Making it Big (series), Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (movie)
The skinny: After five years, femme-targeted cabler still struggles to land large household auds, but has had success targeting young demos. Oxygen had its best year in in 2004 with women 18-49 demo ratings, and net has high hopes for new series “Mr. Romance,” starring the unlikely pair of Fabio and Fred Willard, and original movie “Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber,” based upon Adele Lang’s New York Times best-seller and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Hidden-camera prank show “Girls Behaving Badly” is making its way to syndication this fall via Sony Pictures Television.

Sci Fi
Subscribers: 84 million
Network topper: Bonnie Hammer
Head of programming: Mark Stern, Thomas Vitale
Top originals: Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1, Tripping the Rift
Upcoming originals: Master Blasters (series), Painkiller Jane (series), The Triangle (miniseries)
The skinny: For the third consecutive year, Sci Fi’s numbers continued to climb. The premiere season of “Stargate Atlantis” delivered more 18-49 viewers than any other skein in the net’s history and “Legend of Earthsea Part 2” was the highest-rated program to air on Sci Fi in 2004. Frosh drama “Battlestar Galactica” also opened well and was renewed quickly for a second season. Net has secured development deals with Joel Schumacher, Ridley Scott, Frank Darabon and Nicolas Cage for future projects.

Showtime
Subscribers: 13 million
Network topper: Matthew C. Blank
Head of programming: Robert Greenblatt
Top originals: The L Word, Fat Actress, Queer as Folk, Family Business, Huff
Upcoming originals: Weeds (series), The Cell (series), Barbershop (series), Reefer Madness (movie), Our Fathers (movie)
The skinny: Net has a lot riding on Kirstie Alley’s “Fat Actress.” After spending a ton on the critically applauded but little-seen “Huff,” Robert Greenblatt is betting that “Actress” will find the same aud that watches other pseudo-reality skeins such as HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If “Actress” and “Weeds” connect, the strategy to move away from niche-oriented programming — this is the final season of “Queer as Folk” — will look smart.

SoapNet
Subscribers: 40.3 million
Network topper: Deborah Blackwell
Head of programming: Sandy Wax, Mary Ellen DiPrisco
Top originals: Soap Talk, Soapography, 1 Day With…
Upcoming originals: They Started on Soaps (series), I Wanna Be a Soap Star (series), Daytime Emmys red carpet (special)
The skinny: Net has continued to grow in its five years, picking up 4.6 million subs in 2004 and growing 10% year-to-year (Feb. 2005 vs. 2004). New carriage deal with DirecTV in March has execs optimistic about hitting 50 million subs by end of calendar year 2005. Blackwell has been rumored to be in line for Lifetime prexy position.

Spike TV
Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Doug Herzog
Head of programming: Kevin Kay
Top originals: MXC, Trucks! 4×4, Ultimate Fighter
Upcoming originals: Invasion Iowa (series), Lance Krall Show (series), Superagent (series)
The skinny: Spike hasn’t been able to get traction with many of its original offerings other than the first season of “The Joe Schmo Show” since launching as a male-centric net in 2003. It has fared better, however, with acquired fare such as “CSI.” Herzog, who continues to run Comedy Central, was brought in earlier this year to breathe life into the cabler. The big focus for Herzog is to find a hit series — one that targets Spike TV’s core male audience but boasts crossover appeal.

TBS
Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Steve Koonin
Head of programming: Christy Kwon Kreisberg
Top originals: The Real Gilligan’s Island
Upcoming originals: Minding the Store (series), Untitled Bruce Nash (series)
The skinny: TBS rebranded itself over the summer as cable’s Very Funny network aided by the successful debut of “Sex and the City” reruns. Although “Sex” ratings started to sag, the net continues to focus on a mix of hit laffer reruns and humorous original reality skeins. “He’s a Lady” was a bust and “Outback Jack” won’t be returning, but a new group of castaways will be shipwrecked for a second season of “The Real Gilligan’s Island” and comedian Pauly Shore gets his own reality series, “Minding the Store.” Cabler taped standup specials at the recent U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo.

TCM
Subscribers: 71 million
Network topper: Tom Karsch
Head of programming: Charles Tabesch
Top originals: Essentials (series), various documentaries such as Scorsese on Scorsese and Irving Thalberg: Prince of Hollywood
Upcoming originals: The Adventures of Errol Flynn (special), Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool (special), Watch the Skies (special)
The skinny: The critics’ darling, TCM keeps on packaging its 3,500-film library in unique ways. In January, Bill Cosby kicked off a series where celebs will introduce favorite films. With no ads, the net added to its coffers with a 6% growth in subscribers and took an eye to the future with a video-on-demand deal with InDemand. TCM finally landed a library deal with 20th Century Fox in August for 27 films in an aggressive year when it bought 89 titles from Universal and 57 from Columbia. That prompted Kagan World Media to estimate the net’s expenses at $45.8 million, a 20% hike from 2003.

TLC
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Billy Campbell (Discovery), David Abraham (TLC)
Head of programming: Sean Gallagher
Top originals: What Not to Wear, Overhaulin, Town Haul, Moving Up
Upcoming originals: Sheer Dallas (series), Material World (series), Property Ladder (series), What Not to Wear: Worst-Dressed Couple in America (special)
The skinny: New topper Abraham and programming chief Gallagher have their work cut out for them in 2005 to stop the Nielsen slide that plagued the cabler in the last 12 months. Web’s flagship “Trading Spaces” suffered from overexposure and ineffective brand extensions and has been revamped in favor of a host-ess format that sees the network bid farewell to signature star Paige Davis. Net showed signs of resurgent life with January bow of “Town Haul,” hosted by ex-“Trading Spaces” designer Genevieve Gorder. Mandate is to expand into new genres (net will explore real estate in “Property Ladder”) and reinvent the home category with “Town Haul” and “Moving Up.”

TNT
Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Steve Koonin
Head of programming: Michael Wright
Top originals: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, Salem’s Lot (movies)
Top Upcoming originals: Into the West (limited series), The Closer (series), Wanted (series)
The skinny: TNT finished first among ad-supported cable nets in primetime total viewers, households, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 in 2004 with its mixture of original pics, “Law & Order” and sports (NBA and NASCAR). This year will see the premiere of “Into the West,” a 12-hour epic series from executive producer Steven Spielberg, and new dramas “The Closer,” starring Kyra Sedgwick,” and “Wanted,” starring Gary Cole.

USA
Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Bonnie Hammer
Head of programming: Jeff Wachtel
Top originals: Monk, The Dead Zone, The 4400, Nashville Star
Upcoming originals: Kojak (series), Made in the USA (series)
The skinny: The latest seasons of “Monk,” “Dead Zone” and “Nashville” each increased by a minimum of 21% last year over 2003 and the ratings for “4400” were better than all of them. Sci Fi topper Hammer saw USA added to her plate and, as of now, she seems to be juggling both extremely well. Her next mission will be to try and brand the net and make its programs more compatible with one another. With its current success, though, don’t expect any major shakeups that might alienate longtime viewers.

VH1
Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Christina Norman
Head of programming: Brian Graden, Michael Hirschorn
Top originals: I Love the ’90s, The Surreal Life
Upcoming originals: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (special), Kept (series),
The skinny: One part Us Weekly magazine, one part cheesy reality skeiner, the new VH1 is packing them in. The net still plays videos in the mornings, but spurred by such series such as reality megahit”Surreal Life,” MTV’s little brother has carved out its own persona by emphasizing personality-driven pop culture centered on such topics as the romantic progress of Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav (“Strange Love”), and Jerry Hall’s upcoming quest to fine a man to keep in luxury for a year in “Kept.” Despite a downbeat fourth quarter, VH1 enjoyed its highest audience ever in 2004 and “Surreal” drew 2.3 million viewers for its fourth-season bow in January.

(Capsules written by Geoff Berkshire, Andrew Grossman, Stuart Levine, Denise Martin, Pamela McClintock, Robert Pietranton and Michael Schneider.)

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More TV News from Variety

Loading