After her extraordinary job in revitalizing History, Nancy Dubuc was asked in April by A&E Networks chief if she could do the same with Lifetime. Never one to back down from a challenge, Dubuc has come up with a plan to turn the femme-skewing network into a major basic cable force.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to take over a brand that is a vanguard in our industry. The question is, how do you reinvent that brand for the next generation?” asks Dubuc, who took A&E-owned and male-dominant History — once best known for World War II documentaries — and turned it into one of the biggest network success stories of the past decade. Skeins such as “Ax Men, “Pawn Stars” and “Ice Road Truckers” have become national phenomenons.
In addition to “Project Runway,” Lifetime will devote more programming to reality in the near future because Dubuc realizes it’s what her audience desires.
“We want Lifetime to stay grounded in its roots — scripted, nonfiction and movies — but 82% of all women watch reality, and if we’re all things to all women, we have be successful in that genre.”
That being said, to give the net diversity Dubuc has already ordered three drama pilots, including one from “Drop Dead Diva” exec producer Josh Berman about a San Diego police detective who’s the mother of two and on the verge of divorce.
As for Raven, she’s quick to tout not only History’s resurgence but mothership net A&E as well. Cabler made a bold move this year with scripted skein “The Glades,” about a Chicago detective moving to South Florida. It bowed to 3.6 million viewers in July and was just given a second-season renewal.
“The DNA of A&E has always been drama, and it was important to come out in summer with a big-ticket program,” Raven says, adding that the third quarter was the best ever for the net.
History had an ambitious project of its own this year with “America: The Story of Us,” a six-part 12-hour docu miniseries that looks at where the nation has come since its inception. With 5.7 million viewers tuning into the opening-night episode, it was the most-watched special in History’s history.
“We’re a premiere entertainment company, and energized across the board,” Raven says.