×

Listen: How A+E Networks Bucked the Trend and Fell Back in Love With Lifetime Movies

In an era of overflowing choice, focus is more important than ever for traditional television executives.

On the latest episode of Variety podcast Strictly Business, A+E Networks’ president of programming Rob Sharenow discusses how the cable giant pulled its flagship brands out of the ratings trenches over the past two years, thanks in large part to a renewed focus on what A&E and History do well, and a realistic assessment of what wasn’t working so well.

“We’re in an age of unbelievable distraction. There’s a million reasons why people in my profession have reason to panic,” Sharenow says. “There are incredible shifts going on in consumption. … One of the things we’ve done very well is to try and drown out all the distraction and stay focused on the core mission of what the brands has always been — to super-serve the audience.”

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

Sharenow details the decision to move away from scripted programming on A&E in favor of its core true-crime and you-are-there documentary programming, exemplified by the success of its innovative franchise “Live PD.” Sharenow notes that the circulation provided by the influx of viewers for “Live PD” on Friday and Saturday nights has driven new viewers to the stalwart shows that have long been guiding lights for A&E, “60 Days In,” “The First 48” and “Intervention.”

History is in the midst of a number big initiatives to reinforce its bona fides as a home of in-depth programming on great moments in history, recent and not-so-recent. The documentary series “Washington” is leading the charge for a series of what Sharenow calls “elevated” deep dives into the human stories behind legendary figures such as the nation’s first president.

At Lifetime, the spade work of boosting ratings has been a slower process. But the momentum is there thanks to the decision to embrace the very thing that most casual viewers associate with the channel: made-for-TV movies. Sharenow explains how a stepped up slate of made-fors has taken the place of drama series.

“There was a moment where we sort of backed away from the strategy of doing the Lifetime movie,” Sharenow said. “Then we looked at it and said, ‘This is what our viewers love. Why not lean into it?'”

Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

More Biz

  • Coronavirus Work From Home Placeholder

    Are Virtual Markets Working For Distributors and Buyers Navigating Coronavirus?

    When the film and TV industry emerges from self-isolation to a forever altered landscape, one silver lining will be the online savvy newly gained by traditionally digitally-shy businesses, some of whom have reacted with lightning speed to devise virtual showcases. A drive towards virtual events initially manifested in early March across disrupted festivals such as [...]

  • Endeavor co-founder Ari Emanuel

    Endeavor Officially Announces Pay Cuts as Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell Forgo Salaries

    Endeavor has officially begun rolling out pay cuts as it grapples with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the industry. Endeavor heads Ari Emanuel and chairman Patrick Whitesell are forgoing their salaries, with president Mark Shapiro cutting his in half. The pay reductions will proportionately increase according to base salary, from 5% to [...]

  • Los Angeles Coronavirus Covid-19 Placeholder

    Shining a Light on Some of the Hopeful Measures in These Terrifying Times (Column)

    There’s no question that these are terrifying times we’re living in. We’re doing our best to adapt our personal and professional lives in profound ways to stop the spread of the pandemic by protecting ourselves, our families, our colleagues and strangers. It’s not easy staying hopeful and optimistic as we witness the number of coronavirus [...]

  • Former Hulu Chief Jason Kilar Named

    Former Hulu Chief Jason Kilar Named CEO of WarnerMedia

    Former Hulu chief Jason Kilar has been named CEO of WarnerMedia, giving him oversight of Warner Bros., HBO, the Turner cable assets and the company’s nascent HBO Max streaming platform. Kilar succeeds John Stankey, who was upped in September to AT&T president and chief operating officer. Kilar’s name had surfaced as a contender for the [...]

  • Coronavirus Hollywood Jobs

    An Exhaustive Guide to Coronavirus-Relief Resources for the Music Community

    As the coronavirus pandemic has brought much of the music industry — and most industries — to a standstill, MusiCares has emerged as the leading relief resource for the untold thousands of music professionals impacted by the crisis. However, obviously it can’t handle everyone, and a large number of resources are available for music professionals [...]

  • Wimbledon Canceled Due to Coronavirus

    Wimbledon Tennis Tournament Canceled Due to Coronavirus

    Wimbledon tennis tournament has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic – the first time this has happened since World War II. The tournament was due to be played between June 29 and July 12. The 134th championships will instead be staged from June 28 to July 11, 2021. The decision follows the postponement of [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: The Bear in

    Comcast and Fox Corp. Set Broad New Carriage Agreement

    Comcast and Fox Corp. have come to terms on a broad carriage agreement covering all of Fox’s cable channels, including Fox News, and its O&O local TV stations. The long-term deal is significant for Fox Corp. given the importance of Comcast’s distribution footprint to core earnings. The pact covers authenticated streaming rights to Fox properties [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content