By Jeanine Poggi
A&E Networks will run its upcoming "Bonnie & Clyde" miniseries simultaneously on Lifetime, History and A&E later this year, the company plans to announce Wednesday at its upfront presentation in New York.
The unusual simulcast, which will be pitched to viewers as a "House Party," will allow A&E Networks to combine female-skewing Lifetime viewers with male-skewing History and A&E’s broader adult audience — all the better, the thinking goes, to offer ad buyers larger reach at one time. It is the first such attempt by the company but is likely to be repeated if it works.
"Bonnie & Clyde" is the latest big-budget TV miniseries, where History has been spearheading the genre’s return to prominence — first with "Hatfields & McCoys," whose finale averaged 14.3 million viewers, and then "The Bible," whose finale got 10.3 million viewers. Their success also spawned History’s first scripted series, "Vikings," which has been renewed for a second season.
History is now committed to building out its scripted programming, planning two additional miniseries: "Houdini," which will star Adrian Brody, and "Sons of Liberty." It will spin "Hatfields & McCoys," meanwhile, into a reality show.
The A&E network will use the upfront — part of TV’s annual effort to sell ad time in the upcoming season — to introduce its next scripted drama, "Those Who Kill," which stars Chloe Sevigny as a police detective who tracks down serial killers. The network enters the upfronts following the season finale of "Duck Dynasty," which drew 9.6 million viewers, and the success of its most recent scripted drama, "Bates Motel."
Lifetime will add a scripted series, "Witches of East End," about a family of witches, and "Devious Maids," a new project from Marc Cherry and Eva Longoria airing in June. It is also renewing the reality competition series "Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition" for a second season.
A&E Networks plans to emphasize its broad success, arguing that it accumulates audiences without over-relying on any one program, genre or night, and without any costly sports programming. The company has seen an executive shakeup in recent weeks, with Nancy Dubuc rising to president and CEO, succeeding Abbe Raven, who was named to the newly created role of chairman. The ad sales team has also been ramping up and restructuring, with an emphasis on partnerships and research.
The partnership group, led by David DeSocio, is working to develop custom creative executions in the network’s specials, while the research team, led by Michael Greco, is spearheading studies to provide clients with insights into viewers’ passions and marketing to men and women.
As A&E Networks focuses on selling content across platforms, the company has also formed a new business development group, headed by Louis Jerome and Susan Webber Gatto. Jim Agius, Amy Baker and Peter Olsen, have also been promoted to oversee advertising on A&E, Lifetime and History, respectively.
"We are not just selling cable TV anymore. … We need to think of it more broadly than selling TV ratings points," said Mel Berning, president of ad sales, in an interview ahead of the presentation.