It’s an extreme understatement to say that A+E Networks has come quite a long way since 1982, when Abbe Raven, fresh from working in theater, came to what was then known as Daytime & Arts as a production assistant.
Its 10 networks air in 150 countries, in more than 350 million homes. History, which Raven helped launch in 1995, is now a top five primetime cable network in the U.S. And A&E also wrapped up another strong year in 2011, with such non-fiction series as Storage Wars and its spin-off, Storage Wars: Texas, setting ratings records for the net. But while many journalists are quick to cite the big fact ent success stories, such as Storage Wars and History’s Pawn Stars, Raven says the explosive growth of A+E Networks isn’t the result of finding “lightning in a bottle.”
“To me it comes down to having a great team in place that knows what our audiences want and delivers it to them,” she says. ‘One or two shows is lighting in a bottle but to have over 15 of the top 50 shows in all of cable in our portfolio is having the right team in place, who work with the very best in the creative community. I like to think that we have been successful because we have taken big risks and that they have paid off in a big way.”
This past year saw an internal shuffle of programming execs that brought former History SVP David McKillop to A&E, and A&E EVP Rob Sharenow to Lifetime, with Dirk Hoogstra upped to head History’s programming. It was a move that Raven says was designed to “encourage creativity and share brand experiences.”
“Myself, [A&E & Bio president and general manager] Bob DeBitetto, [History and Lifetime president and general manager] Nancy Dubuc and my entire management have worked together a long time and that stability combined with giving people new challenges and responsibilities has really paid off,” Raven says. “Everyone across our company is invested in our brands and programming.”
With Lifetime poised to unveil a rebranding of sorts under Dubuc in the new year, Raven says growing the net is “certainly our top goal,” and she’s confident that it will make strides in 2012. “Lifetime has a great team in place and very strong development in the pipeline, and I am excited for 2012 and what’s ahead,” she says. Other top priorities: keeping History and A&E in the top five for adults, further international expansion and more moves in multi-platform.
You’re coming up to 30 years at A+E Networks. What are your thoughts on how it’s evolved over those years?
When I started with this company we had one network. Today we have 10 in 150 countries around the world in over 350 million homes. The growth of our business is nothing more than extraordinary.
To see the success our team has created has been so rewarding, especially since we have become a top tier cable group. Every day that I come to work is a new adventure. This past fall, we launched History in India to over 50 million people and within a month it became the number one pay channel in the market. I experience that type of energy every day and it is exhilarating!