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A&E Network touts gains, jabs at competish

Execs boast of high volume of originals at upfront presentation

Coming off of the best year ever for its top cablers, A&E Networks came out swinging at the competition Wednesday evening at its upfront presentation.

The cable group, which includes History, Lifetime and A&E, touted its many successes during the its sesh with advertisers and journos at Lincoln Center. The elegant affair was punctuated by some fighting words from A&E Television Networks prexy and CEO Abbe Raven.

“We are not following the ‘Big Bang’ strategy where 75% percent of the schedule is off-broadcast programming,” said Raven in a not-so-veiled reference to the Turner group, whose TBS airs reruns of “The Big Bang Theory.” “We have 19 of the top 50 shows in cable — – that is 40 percent of the top shows.”

With the camouflage-clad stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” hitting the red carpet alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, who stars in Lifetime’s original series “The Client List,” A&E brass were quick to point out that its empire was the only top 5 cable network group to grow its viewership in 2011, which marked its most-watched year ever.

Buoyed by such hits as History’s male-centric “Pawn Stars” franchise, which will launch an upcoming Cajun edition, the group is ready to take some risks, including History’s first foray into scripted drama with the upcoming miniseries “The Hatfields & McCoys.” The presentation featured an extended clip of the Bill Paxton-Kevin Costner oater, which airs Memorial Day.

“Nobody gets men and their choices like we do,” said Nancy Dubuc, prexy and g.m. of History and Lifetime.

Dubuc also pointed to upcoming scripted fare like “The Bible,” from producer Mark Burnett and “The Men Who Built America, which chronicles the nation’s 19th century industrialists, as examples of how the cablers try to innovate. Raven also underscored that theme.

“We have too much reverence for our brands to become a clone of other networks,” she said. “We do not want the 25th generation of the ‘Pawn’ and ‘Storage’ shows like TLC, (Turner’s) TruTV or Discovery. We want to stick to what we do best — creating the original.”

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