FYI: Bennett on what to expect from A+E’s newest net

As FYI confirms more programming ahead of its July 7 launch, network president Jana Bennett (pictured) talks realscreen through what producers and audiences can expect from A+E Networks' new lifestyle channel.
April 16, 2014

As FYI confirms more programming ahead of its July 7 launch, network president Jana Bennett (pictured) talks realscreen through what producers and audiences can expect from A+E Networks’ new lifestyle channel.

A+E Networks this week ordered two pilots for its forthcoming U.S. channel FYI, which will be replacing the company’s Bio Channel on July 7.

The new channel will host launch programming such as The Collective and Nexttime Productions’ The Epic Meal Show, Sharp Entertainment’s World Food Championships, and Jane Street Entertainment’s Renovation Row.

Talking to realscreen, FYI and LMN president Jana Bennett says the net embraces a new type of lifestyle programming that sits in the middle between pure entertainment and how-to. At press time, Bennett says the executive team – which includes senior VP of programming Gena McCarthy, and VPs of development and programming Liz Fine and James Bolosh – were busy working on pilots and had 50 projects in various stages of development.

How has the development of the network been going?

What’s been great is how many producers have seen that FYI is a real invitation to be creative and answer a need that isn’t really catered to in the marketplace currently. There’s a genuine space to reinvent lifestyle programming and to be different from competitors in the lifestyle space already, and that is to embrace younger audiences who are really after a one-destination channel which does a range of things about how you live your life today.

We looked at the audience needs and what came to us clearly was that people see themselves as multi-hyphenated; they don’t have just one interest. They may be a mother, foodie, a maker and a traveler.

We wanted to take a non-segmented approach to our audience and we’re calling that approach “improvised living.” There are generations out there that don’t want instructional TV or a rulebook, they want sources of inspiration for television and therefore we’re taking an informal attitude to our programming and really bringing in ideas that straddle different categories. We’re not siloing our audience.

So you’re offering lifestyle, but broader?

FYI is first and foremost ‘For Your Inspiration,’ so we want ideas to be flowing around various passions. It’s ‘for your taste,’ which can include style as well as food; ‘for your space,’ which could be where you live but [also] where you work; and ‘for your journey,’ both emotional journeys like life stages, but also physical journeys like travel. Also there’s ‘for your look,’ or how you might look to go out to work or on a date.

Is there a stable of producers you’ve turned to for content?

We wanted to extend an invitation to brand new suppliers who could get what’s going on out there in real life, not just the TV bubble, and therefore we’ve had a whole spectrum of producers wanting to work with us, from very new producers to tried-and-tested producers who wanted to do things differently.

What’s off-brand for you, pitch-wise?

We’re seeking to invite people to tear up the rule book. That’s easy to say, but we don’t want instructional or how-to television, and we don’t want to be studio-based in terms of ‘dump and stir.’ We’re trying to reflect life as it’s lived, so we want a feeling of spontaneity, and experts who are passionate and who’ve earned their opinions because they are either doing it or passionate about learning – and that can be on a self-taught amateur  basis or because they’re top of the tree in terms of whatever that discipline might be.

  • This article first appeared in the March/April 2014 edition of realscreen magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.
realscreen magazine, march/april 2014
About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.