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Copycats on the rise

Cable programming often mirrors one another

So what happens when one network takes away another cabler’s hottest property?

Instead of feeling sorry for itself after losing “Project Runway” to Lifetime a few years back, Bravo regrouped.

Although the cabler had to say goodbye to its biggest show at the time, Bravo topper Frances Berwick credits returning hits such as “Top Chef,” “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” and “The Real Housewives” franchise, plus a robust development slate, for Bravo’s upward trend.

“We were well-placed to withstand losing that show, and it does behoove successful networks to have that sort of breadth,” she says.

Another problem often faced by nets is when eerily similar shows turn up on other channels around the dial. With “Hoarders” and “Intervention” among A&E’s top series, execs did a double take when TLC debuted “Hoarding: Buried Alive” and “Addicted.”

Robert Sharenow, senior VP of nonfiction and alternative programming at A&E, says imitation can be flattering yet annoying.

“It’s a business in which a lot of things evolve out of each other. There’s evolving, changing, borrowing and outright copying,” he explains. “The best defense is to keep moving forward.”

Nancy Daniels, TLC’s senior VP of production and development, defends its current lineup.

” ‘Addiction’ took us on a different approach,” she says. “We went beyond the intervention and into the rehabilitation process. We followed people through their struggle, ending each episode with a feeling of hope. It’s the same on ‘Hoarding.’?”

John Miller, senior VP of original programming and development at WE, says copycat shows are part and parcel of the business, especially in the hyper-competitive cable market.

“What’s more worrisome is where they’re scheduled,” he explains. “If they schedule their show against ours and promote it more, that would make me angry. But what are you going to do?”

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