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E! Chief Talks Scripted Investment, Multiplatform Shows and People’s Choice Plans

The past few weeks have seen a gradual thinning of the Peak TV herd as several cablers have bowed out of the scripted series business. E! is a relative newcomer to the arena but plans to stay the course with a handful of scripted projects that complement the cabler’s laser focus on reaching what president Adam Stotsky calls millennial “pop culture vultures.”

Production begins next month in Vancouver on Season 2 of E!’s “The Arrangement,” the cat-and-mouse thriller about a TV actress who finds herself in a bizarre relationship with a major star arranged by a powerful cult. The series, which stars Josh Henderson and Christine Evangelista, earned mostly solid reviews for its first 10-episode season. E!’s other scripted drama, Lionsgate TV’s sudser “The Royals,” is now in production on Season 4.

“Arrangement” averaged around 1 million-1.2 million viewers in Nielsen’s live-plus-7 ratings. On the surface those numbers would make it hard for E! to justify the cost of the show. But “Arrangement” isn’t just a property for E! It hails from NBCUniversal sibling Universal Cable Productions, which is selling the show to TV and digital buyers in international markets.

“The economics of scripted for a cable network like E! are challenging, but because (‘Arrangement’) is produced by UCP it will make sense for us,” Stotsky said. “We think the benefits of having the show warrant the investment for us. Scripted will be a contained investment for us. It’s a way for us to tell stories that our unscripted cameras can’t capture.”

Managing E!’s programming mix has become a more complicated effort this year as the cabler is putting a more energy and resources into multiplatform programming. E! now produces a daily “Live From E!” program for Facebook Live in conjunction with its two-hour E! News block “The Daily Pop” that airs in daytime on the linear channel. E!‘s Snapchat show “The Rundown” has become a priority as the program, an irreverent look at headlines and pop culture trends using all of Snapchat’s bells and whistles, has gained traction.

“These shows are as important to our relationship with our audience as what we do on the linear channel,” Stotsky said. “The advertising opportunity is meaningful and vast.”

Extending E!’s reach onto new screens is vital at a time when live viewership is in decline for most established entertainment channels.

“As linear ratings become increasingly more difficult to drive, we can complement what we’re doing by driving significant off-platform engagement with our content,” Stotsky said.

E!’s biggest gambit on the old-fashioned live TV front is its acquisition of the People’s Choice Awards franchise. The plan is to overhaul the kudocast that has a 43-year history of handing awards to actors, movies and TV shows based on votes by the public. That conceit is a perfect fit with E!’s mission to be the “voice of the fans,” Stotsky said. The cabler plans to generate a ton of People’s Choice-related programming beyond the annual two-hour awards presentation. The first wave of that effort will hit next year.

“We really see this as a strategic pillar for us and not just a once-a-year awards show event,” he said. “The People’s Choice is kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. There’s no better brand to facilitate that because we celebrate everything pop culture has to offer.”

(Pictured: “The Arrangement”)

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