Nancy Dubuc chats with Critics at Wednesday's TCA panel
Nancy Dubuc is quick to recall that when she arrived at Lifetime in May 2010, she didn’t have much to work with. Content for its pipeline was in short supply — or, more accurately, no supply.“It’s fair (to say) there wasn’t a pipeline,” Dubuc told Variety at Wednesday’s Television Critics Tour in Beverly Hills. “There were no scripted series and two in reality.” The cupboards are no longer bare: The cabler has greenlit 175 hours of original content and is set to launch its newest series, “Against the Wall,” on Sunday. Drama stars Aussie actress Rachel Carpani, Treat Williams and Kathy Baker. Now that the cabler is ready to roll out new series — “Drop Dead Diva” and “Army Wives” remain the net’s current scripted fare — it needs the ratings to back them up. The channel’s most recent premiere was the Roseanne Barr reality skein “Roseanne’s Nuts,” which drew 1.6 million. While that improved on the previous time period, it wasn’t enough for the cable world to take notice. Dubuc realizes that a turnaround for Lifetime — a femme-skewing net that has, over the years, lost many younger women viewers to cablers such as Bravo — isn’t something that can be done in a flash. “I think the progress is right on track with what we’ve expected,” Dubuc said. “We’ve been very methodical in building up the brand. That doesn’t happen overnight.” And in some ways, Dubuc’s leadership in making History one of cable’s most successful nets has tested the patience of some waiting for Lifetime to turn around its fortunes. “We’ve had some expectations working against us, which is the success of A&E and History,” Dubuc said. “I think people take for for granted the success of the original content at A&E Networks and in building brands. People have selective memory on how long that takes.” Net should get plenty of publicity when “Five” — a series of short films about breast cancer — debuts Oct. 10. Pics, directed by Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, Patty Jenkins and Penelope Spheeris, could put the network in the spotlight unlike any other of its recent programs. Dubuc is hoping the headlines “Five” will earn will drive the creative community back to Lifetime. But she realizes that the proof will be in how good the project is, not whether it generates posts on Twitter. “They’ll have to see it to believe it,” she said. As for History, the male-friendly cabler averaged more than 1 million viewers in the 25-54 demo in the year’s second quarter and is set to launch a handful of projects that will look to expand its reach. “Pawn Stars” is the net’s top series and best in all of cable in the demo. Skein is averaging 3.4 million viewers in 25-54, up 26% from a year ago. Among the new History series announced Wednesday were: • “Invention USA,” about two scientists who find the most impressive pitches from amateur inventors. T Group Prods. is set as producer. • “Full Metal Jousting,” from Pilgrim Films, in which a group of fighters face off against one another on horseback until a winner is declared at the end of the season. • “United Stats of America,” a series that crunches data to give a picture of the country, based on everything from weight to age to lifespans. Left/Right Prods. is producing. History will devote a a significant amount of programming to the 10th anni of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Specials that will cover the events for the day are “9/11: The Days After” (premiering Sept. 10) and “Voices From Inside the Towers” (Sept. 9). Looking back further in American history, cabler is currently in production with the six-hour docu “Vietnam in HD,” whch examines the war through first-person accounts of soldiers, nurses, doctors and correspondents. Michael C. Hall will narrate.