A&E stripes for DeBitetto

Cabler program chief's upped

Robert DeBitetto has been named exec VP and general manager of A&E Network.

He succeeds former net prexy Abbe Raven, who was elevated to president of A&E Networks two months ago when Nick Davatzes retired (Daily Variety, March 16).

DeBitetto, who had been serving as programming chief and will continue to report to Raven, will now have oversight of A&E and its spinoffs the Biography Channel and yet-to-launch Crime & Investigation Network. In addition to programming, he will now be responsible for A&E’s day-to-day business operations, strategic planning, marketing and brand development.

He joined A&E in January 2003 and has been part of the Raven-led team that helped breathe new life into A&E. During his tenure, key 25-54 ratings shot up 40% and 18-49 numbers increased 62%. Channel also dropped a decade off its median age.

Growth has come with the introduction of such buzzworthy skeins “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” “Growing Up Gotti” and “Intervention,” which DeBitetto spearheaded alongside senior VP Nancy Dubuc. He also played a role in engineering the acquisitions of high-profile hours “The Sopranos,” “24” and “CSI Miami.”

“What I saw in Bob two and a half years ago was a guy who had a strong background creatively and a strategic business point of view. He had that duality when most executives have one or the other,” Raven said. “He’s extremely in touch with what’s going on in pop culture, a real student of television. A&E’s experienced fabulous growth since he joined.”

Focus going forward for DeBitetto will be on brand development. Raven says A&E is in the middle of a five-year plan that pulls together what A&E programs — real-life series, off-net dramas, original movies and shortly, original dramas — for one strong overall brand.

“I want A&E to be the watercooler network and Bob will be focused on taking us there,” she said. “What will more clearly emerge is an A&E brand that’s younger, hipper, recognizable and not aging. We’re continuing to tell great stories with compelling characters from top-notch people.”

Dubuc, senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming, becomes head of both genres, which include “Biography” and upcoming bioseries “Being.”

Before joining A&E, DeBitetto was head of programming for TNT, where he oversaw development and production. He also served as senior VP at Disney Motion Pictures Group.