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From George W. Bush to Salt-N-Pepa, A+E Networks Demonstrates Range and Reach

A+E Networks brought out an eclectic group of personalities — from George W. Bush to Sylvester Stallone to Salt-N-Pepa to Garth Brooks — Wednesday night to tout new programming and initiatives coming to History, A&E and Lifetime.

The program pitch at A+E’s upfront presentation at Jazz at Lincoln Center seemed like a back-to-basics approach for the cable group, with distinct programming niches for the company’s three pillar channels.

Paul Buccieri, A+E Networks Group president, emphasized the “strong relationship” the channels have with their target audiences. “That loyalty makes us relevant on every platform,” he told the crowd of media buyers.

The core A+E Networks channels have been seeing improvements after a long slump. Like other major ad-supported cablers, A+E is still buffeted by the fast-changing TV marketplace and viewers’ embrace of on-demand platforms. But each of A+E’s Big Three have successes to point to — as stars and executives were quick to do during a breezy hourlong presentation.

Former President Bush gave a big plug to History, saying the channel “tells it straight” with its documentaries and series. Bush, who was recently honored for his historical preservation efforts, also hailed History’s work with veterans groups to shine a light on their needs and contributions.

“I’m optimistic about our future. I understand that democracy is self-correcting,” Bush said. “I am optimistic as well because of our veterans.”

Stallone was on hand to talk up “The Tenderloin,” a scripted drama set in the turn of the century that will tell the true story of a crooked New York City cop who was sent to the electric chair. Stallone is set to direct several episodes, should “Tenderloin” be ordered to series.

“Thank you very much, and keep punching,” Stallone sad to enthusiastic applause. (Stallone also joked that he and Buccieri should “start a spumoni company.”)

The pioneering female rap duo Salt-N-Pepa were on hand to promote the upcoming miniseries based on their story. The pair got a big hand and led some in the audience crowd through a few lines of their 1993 hit “Shoop.”

“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts talked up her deal with Lifetime to produce a series of telepics and documentaries. Lifetime has some renewed energy following the success of its “Surviving R. Kelly” docu-series that led to the renewed scrutiny and an arrest for the embattled R&B singer.

Dan Abrams, host of A&E’s hit series “Live P.D.,” delivered the obligatory humorous video featuring top brand managers discussing their needs. It was not lost on the crowd that Dunkin’ chief marketing officer Tony Weisman extolled the virtues of “broad reach media” for the fast-food chain. A+E ad sales chief Peter Olsen reinforced the message that A+E channels offer “brand safety” and respectability in contrast to the less predictable environs for content and advertising offered by digital media giants.

The closer at A+E’s party was Garth Brooks, who is the subject of a four-part documentary “Garth: The Road I’m On,” to air on A&E under the “Biography” banner. Brooks promised that the doc is revealing about his life and long career as a country music superstar. “The whole point of this documentary is to go to the dark places that nobody ever saw,” Brooks said.

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