In a bid to establish its mainstream-entertainment bona fides, A&E will launch Private Sessions, a weekend music show featuring contemporary acts. The hour-long show, set for a July 22 debut, will replace the more staid Breakfast With the Arts.
The series, hosted by VH1 Classics' Lynn Hoffman, will feature popular musical acts in performances taped in New York and interspersed with interview footage. With guests like 22-year-old pop singer Avril Lavigne, country star Toby Keith and classic-rock belter Meat Loaf, Sessions is aimed squarely at the 18-54 demo. A&E has slated 14 episodes for 2007.
The move to swap Sessions for Breakfast, which favored jazz, classical and Broadway music, is consistent with A&E's recent strategy of targeting younger viewers with action-packed reality shows and high-profile acquired dramas like The Sopranos.
(Breakfast, which has been in the weekend morning slot since 1991, has performed poorly relative to the network's other fare and has been in reruns since June.)
The new series also represents an effort to freshen the musical component of the arts network's programming mix, which includes primetime concerts by such acts as Bon Jovi (slated for later this year).
“We felt the mainstream music industry is a niche that—on a national level, with major cable networks—is underserved,” says Tom Moody, VP of program planning and Sessions' executive producer. “Networks are doing music in small doses, but none of the big mainstream networks are doing a music show profiling acts to give them a long period of time to tell their whole story.”
With MTV Networks recently recommitting to its Unplugged franchise across its music channels, A&E is aiming for a similarly intimate approach.
“We want you to feel like you're having your own exclusive little intimate concert and conversation with the host,” says Moody. “When you walk away, you'll have seen [not only] great performances but also what makes the talent tick and drives them in their field.”