In tapping former ABC Entertainment exec Kevin Plunkett as senior veep of scripted programming, E! believes it has taken a significant step toward what the cabler says is its goal of premiering its first scripted series in 2013.
Plunkett most recently spent 6 1/2 years as senior VP of comedy development at ABC Studios and, prior to that, topped current comedy at the Alphabet net. He has also had development and programming positions with Paramount TV, ABC Family and Disney Channel.
E! programming prexy Lisa Berger told Variety that Plunkett’s expertise in “everything that had to do with story and character” was a major factor in his hire.
“He comes from such a prestigious background, and what impressed me the most about him was he is so passionate about storytelling,” said Berger, to whom Plunkett will report. “To step into a new endeavor like this, we need passion. We need people who love pop culture.”
Plunkett acknowledged that part of his task is to find a scripted project that fits with the bellwether reality series at E!, but made the case that the tent is wider than it might seem.
“There are so many shows that are successful on E! right now,” he said. “I think if you are not a Kardashians fan, you are a ‘Soup’ fan or a ‘Chelsea Lately’ fan. “So the access point for those we are recruiting (to watch) scripted shows doesn’t have to come from one place.”
According to Berger, it’s more important that new scripted series match the tone of current reality programming at E! than the content (i.e., a play on celebrity culture).
“We have a strong 18-49 audience, and we have a really strong female 18-34 audience as well,” she said. “We would be foolish if we tried to alienate what our core is with our female viewers, but absolutely our goal is to bring more viewers into the tent. Frankly, it is all of our goals to be a top-five network.”
Plunkett said the scripted division was essentially starting from scratch, but that he expected to combine pitches from the community with in-house ideas to build up development.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting, because you have so many people that come daily to watch what’s on E! right now,” he said. “To build on that audience and expand isn’t (an opportunity) presented at lot of other networks.”
Berger added that ideally, E! would issue its first greenlight in summer 2012 and launch two series in 2013, but the timetable isn’t rigid.
“We want to make sure it’s the right one,” said Berger, who envisions the inaugural scripted skein as an hourlong but not necessarily a drama. “If we don’t get it right, we keep trying.”