The Reelz Network—privately owned, by a Hubbard Broadcasting subsidiary—turns 10 on Sept. 27. The channel launched in 2006 with access to about 30 million homes and has grown that reach to about 70 million today.
It’s important to keep overhead low, said channel CEO Stan E. Hubbard (who moved operations to Los Angeles in 2008 to cut costs), because the only revenue coming in is from ad sales. “Every penny of that and more has gone on the screen,” Hubbard said.
Next year will see another big milestone: Reelz’s deals call for a license fee to start kicking in, per Hubbard, who said it’s a very small one that’s been a long time coming.
“When we launched, we told all of our distributors, ‘We’ll be back. We believe in what we’re building—give us a chance, we’ll earn it,’” said Hubbard.
According to Reelz, several distribution deals have been done over the last year and a half, including with DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast and Charter Communications. But Hubbard said he is continuing to look for improvements in such basic areas as channel position, high-definition carriage and packaging.
Again according to Reelz, on DirecTV and Dish, where the network is carried in HD in favorable channel positions, it’s a top-50 network, as opposed to ranking 68th overall. Only about two-thirds of Reelz’s overall carriage is in HD, Hubbard said.
Given some carriage sweeteners, Reelz could bea top-50 network overall, he contends. And if itcould break into the top 40, “probably with the lowest rate in the business, we have an extremely successful business.”
Key moments for Reelz were opportunistic pickups of the A&E-scrubbed miniseries The Kennedys in 2011 and of the Miss USA pageant in 2015.
Since airing Miss USA, Reelz has shifted to more female-skewing programming and packed its schedule with pulpy fact-based shows centered on Hollywood and celebrity scandal. This summer the net renewed five series and greenlit 15 new ones, including Rich and Acquitted, Hollywood Homicide Uncovered and Scandal Made Me Famous. The network has also slated a sequel of sorts to The Kennedys, which will air in 2017.