A busy last week at A+E Networks precedes a hectic fall for its young studio operation. Bob DeBitetto, former head of A+E Studios, gave notice after 14 years with the company. DeBitetto was named president of brand strategy, business development and the studio in 2013, when Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO, A+E Networks, tasked him with creating scripted hits for the company’s networks, which include A&E, Lifetime, History and Viceland, the ambitious rebrand of the former H2.
DeBitetto is credited for shepherding hit series including Lifetime’s UnReal and the Roots miniseries that ran across the A+E portfolio last spring. According to a memo from Dubuc, DeBitetto informed her over the summer that he wanted to move on to the “next chapter in his storied career,” though neither Dubuc nor DeBitetto specified what that is.
DeBitetto will remain on board until the end of the year.
A day after that development, Dubuc announced that Paul Buccieri was being promoted to president of A+E Studios and A+E Networks Portfolio Group. Dubuc made it clear that owning shows—successful shows at that—is a key priority in this era of peak TV. “The growth of A+E Studios is a major priority for us as content ownership and capabilities are vital for our future growth,” her memo said.
Neither Dubuc nor Buccieri were available for comment.
It’s been a rapid climb up the org chart for Buccieri, who joined A+E Networks as president of A&E and History in late 2014 after seven years at U.K.-based ITV, where he was chairman of ITV Studios U.S. Group and ITV Studios Global Entertainment. At the time, Dubuc saluted her new hire as a strong leader and “brilliant strategist.”
Buccieri is indeed a well-regarded executive who keeps a relatively low profile despite his increasing clout. He was previously president of programming, production and development at Fox Twentieth Television and an exec producer at Endemol USA.
It’s a pivotal time for A+E Studios, as well as the networks, which are climbing back from a recent ratings drought. Roots was a big swing for the studio and the group. Speaking with B&C last spring, Buccieri called it “probably one of the network’s biggest undertakings.”
Roots was a respectableratings performer, premiering at 5.3 million total viewers and finishing its fourth night at 4.2 million, amid heavy competition from the NBA playoffs. It was nominated for an Emmy for limited series. “We love to do pieces of scale and scope and character,” Buccieri said pre-premiere.
A more problematic original lately has been UnReal, which charmed critics in its first season but stumbled with them and lost viewers in season 2.
A+E Studios has more big bets coming up, including History’s Navy SEALs drama Six and the swords-and-sandals epic Knightfall. It is remaking the film Beaches for A&E in 2017 and is producing a drama about Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman called #Cartel, along with ABC Signature.
A&E debuts the unscripted, law enforcement-focused Live PD Oct. 28, with eight two-hour installments hosted by Dan Abrams. Lifetime debuts the original movies Surviving Compton Oct. 15 and Who KilledJonBenét? on Nov. 5. A new season of Vikings, which set the stage for scripted originals on History, returns Nov. 30.