UPFRONT & CENTER: AETN to Spend $650M on Programming

A&E Network to Rebrand Under Slogan ‘Real Life. Drama.’

A&E Television Networks will spend $650 million on new content across its television channels and new-media extensions in 2008. That’s what CEO Abbe Raven plans to tell advertisers at the company’s New York upfront presentation Monday evening.

A&E Network

Raven, at the helm of the company for three years now, plans to tout the fact that all of the networks in AETN’s stable finished the first quarter with their best-ever ratings. On the A&E Network side, she will talk up the network’s return this summer to programming original dramas with its Benjamin Bratt series, Cleaner.

On the History front, she will highlight network chief Nancy Dubuc’s quick progress in signing deals with talent like Tom Brokaw, George Lucas and Tom Beers -- moves that have brought the network consistent double-digit ratings gains.

“Our passion is for quality storytelling; our drive is to be the best in the business; our innovation creates solutions for you, to make sure we engage our viewers and bring value to your brands,” Raven said in remarks given to B&C in advance.

At the presentation, A&E is expected to announce a rebrand under which the network will take on the slogan, “Real Life. Drama.,” and change its logo to boxier letters with a larger ampersand than the one in the current logo.

Set to premiere Cleaner in June, A&E will up its quantity of original programming by 37% by the third quarter, according to the network. With two pilots in the can and ready for 2009 (The Beast with Patrick Swayze and Danny Fricke with Connie Nielsen) and a second round of development in progress in its Los Angeles office, A&E is aiming to schedule two scripted originals per year going forward, its executives have said.

The network announced three new reality shows Monday, as well as eight returning series for next year. New to the lineup are The Squad, which follows the police force at a maximum-security prison; Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, a companion to Paranormal Statethat will profile youngsters who see dead people; and Jacked, a series about New Jersey’s Auto Theft Task Force, which goes after people who steal cars. Returning to the schedule are Intervention, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, ParanormalState, Criss Angel Mindfreak, Crime 360, The First 48, The Two Coreys and Parking Wars.

“We have enjoyed tremendous success as a result of the strategic transformation of A&E over the past few years,” A&E executive vice president and general manager Bob DeBitetto said in a statement. “We believe our new tag line is an apt shorthand for who we are; quality unscripted real-life shows and scripted drama. Our real-life shows are emotional and dramatic, and our scripted dramas are authentic.”

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