Valentine tapped as GSN’s programmer

Ex-Sci Fi exec plays new game for cabler

GSN has named former Sci Fi Channel programming exec Ian Valentine senior VP of programming. He will report to president-CEO Rich Cronin.

Valentine fills the vacancy left by Bob Boden, who exited late last year on the eve of Game Show Network’s transition to “the network for games” GSN (Daily Variety, Dec. 9).

Valentine, a prior longform guru for USA Networks and ABC Prods., will help GSN expand into more nonstudio-based gameshow programming. Cabler is already dabbling in reality, casino programs, videogame shows, specs and docs. He will oversee production, development and acquisitions for the cabler, available in 54 million homes.

“I think GSN is a channel that is operating a space that means reality and game play — things that are a big part of the TV vocabulary right now,” Valentine said. ” I don’t want to say we can own that niche, but I think there is an audience for shows where people can play along. Once we open up our programming focus more, we can reach out to them.”

“Ian has developed hit programs in a variety of genres and has experience with interactive TV as well as network repositioning,” Cronin said. “His programming and production expertise, his industry relationships and his understanding of technology and business make him the perfect person to oversee our programming and to be a key member of GSN’s senior management team.”

The first round of original series to bow under the net’s new moniker — relationship reality show “Fake-a-Date” and comedy series “Kenny vs. Spenny” — have received lukewarm response. But Valentine says he will look into more ways in which games can translate into programming. He’s exploring hidden-camera shows and repackaged foreign formats such as the Food Network’s U.S. version of “Iron Chef.”

“The process of rebranding a network is a long-term one. I’m going to concentrate on extending the gaming brand, and that means going into all sorts of other arenas outside of studio gameshows. That means anything that has some element of competition or play,” he said.

Exec also said he will try to find an interactive element in each original effort and/or acquisition. One of his initial priorities will be the oversight of GSN’s horse-racing reality series “American Dream Derby,” which viewers will be able to bet on via the Internet in states where it is legal.

Before GSN, Valentine produced the UPN pilot “2 Kings” with Blueprint Prods. and was CEO of cable startup Brands Shopping Network. During a three-year stint at Sci Fi, most recently as programming senior veep, he helped broaden the channel’s audience and developed hits including “Steven Spielberg’s Taken,” “Farscape,” “Stargate” and CG-animated series “Tripping the Rift.”

He also oversaw the development and production of high-rated longforms “Children of Dune” and “Battlestar Galactica.”