A&E TV Networks Invests in New Drama


A&E Television Networks (AETN) pledged to invest more than $600 million in new programming, media and technology at its New York upfront last week. That was up from the $500 million promised at last year’s upfront.

“Our expertise is storytelling, and the investments we are making in original content and new technology will further establish our success as a leading global content company,” said AETN President/CEO Abbe Raven.

A&E’s scripted dramas in development, almost all of which focus on some form of law enforcement, join six others previously touted in January. The network also recently announced its forthcoming four-hour miniseries The Andromeda Strain, which will be the second adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel. The new programs represent the first major slate to come out of the network’s Los Angeles programming office, headed by Tana Nugent Jamieson.

The new dramas are The Beast, a thriller about an FBI veteran who simultaneously trains and tricks his rookie partner (Sony Pictures Television); Homestead, about L.A. cops who live in the neighborhoods they police (Fox Television Studios); Takedown, a thriller about U.S. marshals chasing fugitives (Warner Horizon Television); The Cleaner, about a man who conquers his own addictions by helping others (CBS Paramount); and Under, about a reformed thug who becomes an NYPD officer.

A&E Executive VP/General Manager Bob DeBitetto says the network aims to put at least one original drama into production to debut in 2008 as a companion to its acquired series, which include The Sopranos. That would complete a three-step plan the network has been following for the past few years: lowering its median age through reality shows, buying up pricey off-network dramas like The Sopranos and CSI: Miami and, finally, adding original dramas of its own.

At last week’s presentation, DeBitetto cited the results of Steps 1 and 2, calling the network’s ratings gains and median age drops “the most dramatic turnaround in recent cable history.”