DuBuc Widens New Media Focus

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Nancy DuBuc, who is credited with boosting A&E’s 18 to 49 ratings during the past three years with a serialized reality slate, has been promoted to senior VP of nonfiction programming and new media content for A&E Networks.

The position will expand Ms. DuBuc’s role to include oversight of The History Channel and new media content for all A&E Networks. She previously served as senior VP of nonfiction and alternative programming for A&E.

“Nancy has really helped to turn things around for us. Her team has had their finger on the pulse of pop culture and creating what I would call water-cooler programs,” said Abbe Raven, president of A&E Networks. “I wanted to take that kind of expertise and spread it across multiple platforms in the company.”

Michael Hirschorn, executive VP of original programming for fellow serial-reality-centric VH1, praised Ms. DuBuc. “She’s particularly good at finding surprising characters and building good shows around them,” he said.

In her new position, Ms. DuBuc will attempt to bring the same brand-boosting viewership to History Channel that she brought to A&E.

“There are tremendous opportunities to widen that brand and infuse entertainment,” Ms. Dubuc said.

History Channel presents a more delicate challenge than did reinvigorating A&E. Despite its rather unsexy documentary programming and below-the-radar status, History has a clear-cut brand and a faithful following. The network had record ratings last year, ranking 10th out of 64 basic cable networks and averaging 1.1 million prime time viewers. Fans of the channel are older, yet the network has a higher concentration of men than does ESPN. The channel signed 103 advertisers in 2005.

When Ms. DuBuc took over a struggling A&E in 2003, it needed fixing. History Channel, arguably, doesn’t.

“At A&E, alienating the core audience was OK,” she said. “History is very successful and I would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. I’m more like trying to reinvent the wheelhouse.”

In this case, the wheelhouse is in part the way History Channel content is presented online. History.com has been gearing up for a revamp that will result in a site saturated with video clips, speeches, timelines, games and podcasts, as well as broadband video channels.

The plans were set in motion by History Channel President Dan Davids, to whom Ms. DuBuc will report for History Channel programming. For A&E programming, she will continue to report to Bob DeBitetto, executive VP and general manager.

“I don’t think [A&E Networks] has been as aggressive as we could have been in new media,” she said. “History has a real fan base, like ESPN or Food Network, and there’s an opportunity to move that fan base around to other platforms.”

Ms. Raven added that A&E Networks’ overall new media goals include launching several broadband channels and making A&E and History Channel programs available on portable devices such as the iPod.

Since Ms. DuBuc joined A&E in 2003 the network has suffered a slight loss of overall viewers, yet made tremendous gains with adults 18 to 49, the demographic most sought by advertisers.

The network climbed in the demo from 20th to 10th as youthful viewers tuned in to Ms. DuBuc’s reality efforts such as “Inked,” “Criss Angel Mindfreak” and “Intervention.”

Her upcoming slate includes “Driving Force” and “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels.”

Before joining A&E, Ms. DuBuc was director of historical programming for History Channel and previously worked on PBS’s “This Old House.”