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In Quest To Emulate E!, Bravo, TVGN Unveils ‘Fan’ Strategy and Donnie Wahlberg Series

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TVGN, the cable outlet once firmly associated with TV Guide, wants to cut its own swath through audiences who thrill to movies and TV shows and the people who make them possible.

In a presentation with journalists, TVGN entertainment president Brad Schwartz articulated a vision that would attract people interested in “fandom culture” but in “a lane very different from Bravo, a lane very different from E!”  The central theme of the network, in which CBS Corp. bought a 50% stake in April of last year, is to embrace the idea of being a fan, without taking up some of the jaded views that come from embracing celebrity. TVGN runs a half-hour program based on celebrity fansite Popsugar each evening, but, said Schwartz, “it’s not snarky. It’s not ‘Chelsea,’ it’s not ‘Talk Soup,'” referring to two of E!’s best-known programs.

Independent cable networks like TVGN have their work cut out for them in the modern cable landscape,which is dominated by big media conglomerats that own handfuls of cable outlets. But TVGN is boosted by its CBS and Lionsgate ownership, which allows the network access to CBS reality programming,  shows from the CW and first-access for certain Lionsgate films after they exit their window for premium cable. And while new indies like Revolt and The El Rey Network are walking on to the scene, said Schwartz, TVGN has something they may not have: a presence in more than 80 million homes, the result of its history as an extension of TV Guide, during which it was best known for a scrolling list of programming available on other channels.

Now TVGN is in its “post scroll era,” said Schwartz, with a programming lineup that consists of one-third CBS content, one-third movies from Lionsgate and 40% original programming.

The network will launch in September “Rock This Boat: New Kids On The Block,” which will feature the band of the same name boarding a celebrity cruise along with supefans. Actor Donnie Wahlberg, a member of the group, is an executive producer of the show, which is also produced by Jarrett Creative Group. If successful, said Schwartz, TVGN could try to turn the program into a franchise on the order of Bravo’s “Desperate Housewives,” casting different bands at the center of different cycles.

In July, TVGN will launch “The Sorrentinos,” an eight-episode series with the “Jersey Shore” castmember Mike Sorrentino at its center. The series will focus on his life out of the spotlight as well as the family that surrounds him.  The network is also set to debut “Watch TV,” an event special that goes behind the scenes of luxurious photo shoots for a promotional CBS magazine called “Watch.”

The network has already launched “Unusually Thicke,”  a 14-episode original series from Peacock Alley Entertainment that centers on former sitcom and talk-show host Alan Thicke and his family.