Dubuc: History eyeing gameshows, late-night

U.S. cable network History is exploring the possibility of launching gameshows and venturing into late-night programming, the channel's president and general manager Nancy Dubuc (pictured) told attendees at realscreen's Factual Entertainment Forum in Santa Monica.
June 3, 2011

(Photo: Rahoul Ghose)

U.S. cable network History is exploring the possibility of launching gameshows and venturing into late-night programming, the channel’s president and general manager Nancy Dubuc (pictured) told attendees at realscreen‘s Factual Entertainment Forum in Santa Monica.

Addressing delegates during a frank keynote interview with journalist Lacey Rose, Dubuc talked in detail about the challenges facing female skewing net Lifetime – which she also oversees – and her ambition to continue growing History.

The latter included exploring the possibility of gameshow programming and identifying 11 p.m. as a timeslot with growth possibilities.

“I think we’re sitting on some really interesting brands that we could do other things with,” Dubuc explained. “Gameshows are typically more female-skewing, but quite honestly I’ve always thought that Pawn Stars is sort of a gameshow for men,” she said. “Men also like being the best.”

She warned, however, that History’s viewers have a “tremendous bulls**t meter” for “contrived, saccharine” programming – something the network has always been wary of.

As for late-night, Dubuc said she “wouldn’t make the assumption” that that would necessarily mean talkshows; however, she said that the timeslot was one of the biggest opportunities for channel growth. “There’s a very available viewer at 11 p.m and it’s easier to compete at 11 p.m. than, say, 8 p.m.,” she explained.

Elsewhere, Dubuc described Lifetime as undergoing “a makeover that’s still in its infancy.” She said: “This is a cable network that was number one and she needs to get back on top,” adding that it had the potential to be “a triple threat,” with movies, drama and unscripted programming.

She also defended the dramatic overhaul History has undertaken since she took over the net in 2007. “The critics who say we shouldn’t have done what we did to History – we’d be where Lifetime is now [if we hadn't]. Viewers are incredibly promiscuous people – they don’t watch networks, they watch TV shows.

“History had to be able to run away from the black and white, World War Two [stereotype] – switch that off. Lifetime has to do that with [its] ‘women in peril’ [stereotype].”

She added that the female-skewing network even had a project in development poking fun at its image problems, entitled My Life Is a Lifetime Movie, which Dubuc billed as “her favorite” new project at the moment.

Lifetime is already increasing its premiere hours, she said, from 19 in the first quarter this year to 80 in the third quarter, with plans to increase further.  There had been a sense in the past at the network that “‘Lifetime can’t do that,’” she said, adding that there had been a “perceived laziness with Lifetime execs”. The mantra now, however, was “why not?,” and the attitude more adventurous.

Looking at the international space, Dubuc said: “We are aggressively trying to launch Lifetime internationally,” but conceded that “Discovery is way out ahead on that.”

She praised her working relationship with A+E president and CEO Abbe Raven, saying that her boss “let’s me do my job,” and admitted they both had reservations about having her take on Lifetime in addition to History. “We debated whether I should add that much of a portfolio under me,” she said. However, she added that “having two brands that are that different actually makes it easier.”

Finally, she lamented the amount of copycat programming that goes on in the industry. “Do you know how many pawn, axe and swamp shows there are on TV?” she asked the audience, to laughs. “There are five axe shows, three swamp shows and 15 pawn shows. Shame on us. At our heart, we are supposed to be a creative industry.”

History could’ve picked up all 15 pawn shows and probably enjoyed great success with them, she said. “But I said ‘no, that’s not what we’re going to be.’”

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