History announces development initiative for Realscreen Summit

The initiative, spearheaded by History president and GM Nancy Dubuc, will give History programmers attending the upcoming Realscreen Summit the ability to greenlight the development of a project on site. Dirk Hoogstra (right), History's SVP, development and programming, chats with realscreen about the effort.
January 24, 2012

A+E Networks’ History is undertaking an initiative at the upcoming Realscreen Summit that it says will both empower its programming execs, and provide producers with a new opportunity to work with the cable net.

At this year’s Realscreen Summit, taking place in Washington, DC from January 31 – February 1, History programmers will be given the ability to greenlight development for projects on site.

Dirk Hoogstra, SVP of programming and development for History, says the idea was spearheaded by History president and general manager, Nancy Dubuc, and envisioned as an extension of an already streamlined creative process that would both empower the programming team and uncover fresh and original ideas.

“We don’t have a heavy process here – we have development meetings and for projects we like, we greenlight them. It’s really simple,” says Hoogstra. “So we wanted to take that one step further and say to our team, ‘You guys are the reason we’re so successful, so we want to empower you to develop something from the ground up, and work with our producers to come up with something that could be our next hit.’

“Typically, our team members go out and meet with the producers they have relationships with as well as new producers, take pitches and then come back. From there we have development meetings and sift through things,” he adds. “We’ll still do that. The difference here is that each member of the team is empowered to say, ‘This is something I really believe in – I really want to [develop] it,’ and we’re going to say okay.”

Hoogstra says that the entire History programming team will be attending the Summit at some point over the course of the event. When Dubuc introduced the initiative, Hoogstra says, “The effect here was amazing.”

“They’re really feeling excited and empowered to hit the Realscreen Summit with a sense of, ‘I can really do something here,’ and at a meeting say, ‘I really like this, let’s develop it.’”

History capped off 2011 with its sixth “best year ever” in a row, reaching top five in Adults 25-54/18-49 and Men 25-54/18-49, and top 10 in Adults 18-34/Men 18-34.

Hoogstra says that in addition to empowering the team and incentivizing out of the box thinking, the endeavor is designed to bring new producers onto the network’s radar.

Still, Hoogstra cautions that producers should be bringing their best pitches to the table as the programming execs at the Summit “won’t be just jumping at the first thing.”

Rather, “it’s really an opportunity [for them] to say later, ‘I really believed in this project and took a chance on it,’ and be able to take ownership over that initiative and getting it delivered to see if it’s something we want to do,” he says. “They’ll show up ready and excited.”

The Realscreen Summit takes place in Washington, DC, from January 29-February 1. For more information, click here.

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.