Reelz sets sights on prize

Channel expanding awards push with specials

Film-centric cabler ReelzChannel has launched a major programming push timed to the upcoming awards season.

Billed as the young network’s “biggest on-air and online initiative to date,” ReelzChannel’s “Awards Watch ’07-’08” will include comprehensive coverage of film festivals and award shows leading up to the Academy Awards.

Initiative comes as ReelzChannel hits its one-year anniversary and looks to expand its cable penetration.

“We looked at the opportunity at our first anniversary to look at where we are,” said ReelzChannel programming senior VP Ian Valentine. “Instead of saying, we’re a year old and we’re going to celebrate, we really saw it as an opportunity to take TV ownership of the awards season.”

“Awards Watch ’07-’08” will center on seven original specials, starting with “Awards Watch: The Toronto Film Festival,” which bows Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. on Reelz.

Other events related to the initiative include “Holiday Movies,” “The Golden Globes,” “Producers Guild of America Best Picture Nominees,” “DGA Awards” and “WGA Awards,” as well as Academy Award specials on the actor and actress nominees, supporting thesp nominees, and best picture and director nominees.

” ‘Awards Watch’ will permeate all of our programming on air,” said Gary Thorne, president and chief operating officer of ReelzChannel. “We’ll be digging deeper and bringing more to our viewers and movie fans. The awards season is such an exciting part of Hollywood, and Hollywood is such a big part of America.”

Earlier this month, Thorne absorbed the duties of ReelzChannel co-founder and prexy Rod Perth, who resigned but maintains an office at Reelz’s Los Angeles HQ, serving as consultant and adviser.

Thorne noted that big events like the Oscars and Golden Globes are heavily covered, but lesser-publicized kudofests like the WGA and DGA awards aren’t covered aggressively by many TV outlets.

“A great analogy that someone came up with here at Reelz is, when you think about it, starting from the Toronto Film Festival and ending with the Academy Awards, it’s like a professional sports season,” Thorne said. “It goes from preseason to the regular season to the playoffs, and then the Super Bowl — which in our case is the Oscars.”

Beyond the specials, ReelzChannel’s regular series will get into the act as well, with shows like the net’s daily movie news program “Dailies,” hosted by Mike Richards, covering the awards march, as well as “The Big Tease” movie trailer showcase hosted by Chi-Lan Lieu, and “Secret’s Out,” hosted by Leonard Maltin (who will spotlight his Oscar picks in at least one episode).

“We’re going to cover this in a way where we tell the whole story for the awards season,” Valentine said. “Each of these events is a milestone. The opportunity here is nobody (on TV) tells the full story and connects the dots. … Our basic promise is to dig deeper.”

Thorne said ReelzChannel is still scouting a corporate sponsor for “Awards Watch ’07-’08,” and the channel is working with the DGA and WGA to expand coverage of their kudos.

Exec said the initiative reps the biggest investment the channel, which is owned by Hubbard Media Group, has made.

“We expect over the years that we’ll continue to use this initiative as a way to illustrate our brand,” Thorne said. “It’s an important and big programming and marketing opportunity.”

Daily Variety is a ReelzChannel partner, providing news and analysis for the channel and its website.

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