CABLEU.tv is honored to be able to talk to Diane Robina, Executive Vice President, Programming and Marketing for TV Guide Network. In this role, Robina is the lead executive charged with transforming the network into an entertainment destination with premier programming. She oversees TV Guide Network’s internal and external productions, development and acquisitions, talent relations, program scheduling, research, network branding and strategic marketing. Here's is how Diane answered CABLEU's executive questions:
What are you working on at TV Guide right now that's coming up and you're excited about?
TV Guide Network is ramping up its original programming. Currently, we have seven pilots we’re working on with a broad of producers. We are also in production on a new original docu-reality series “Nail Files,” which is being produced by SallyAnn Salsano and the team that created “Jersey Shore.”
Our distribution remains strong and we are excited to be taking TV Guide Network to full-screen and HD in markets around the country. Currently, TV Guide Network is distributed in 80 million homes across the U.S. and 55% of these homes now carry our network in full-screen. By the end of 2011, we anticipate that 80% of our distribution will be full-screen.
What is the key element that makes a program right for your network?
Our programming generally has a combination of elements that make it work for our audience. In addition to being entertaining, our shows celebrate television, celebrity and pop culture. Also, the TV Guide brand is celebratory, so our programming is never mean-spirited.
What programs and/or genres are you looking for in the next year?
We’re looking for programming that falls into one of these three areas: Entertainment news and specials, docu-dramas about celebrities, and shows that have celebrity adjacency such as “Nail Files.” We think of celebrity adjacency as shows that although the star of the show is not an already established star, his or her life involves celebrities on a regular basis.
What do you look for in a first-time producer besides a great idea?
Great storytelling and the ability to communicate that story in a compelling way is important.
What mistakes do producers make when pitching you?
I’d rather focus on the positive and what producers have done right that has impressed me. I always think it is a good idea for a producer to come in with a one-sheet that summarizes their pitch. It’s also much more impactful if a producer walks in the door with a sizzle or presentation reel that showcases the idea. If I’m interested in the show, I’ll want to share the reel and one-sheet with others at my network, so these materials really help “sell” it in after the meeting is over. Also, it is critical that producers know who my audience is before walking in the door to pitch a show. Doing your homework is critical.
What’s the best way for a producer to pitch to TV Guide Channel?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?
As a female executive in television, I’ve mentored a lot of other women in my field over the years. I’ve always told them the importance of asking for what they deserve and negotiating for themselves. I think women sometimes hold-back when it comes negotiating for themselves.
How important are other platforms like broadband and mobile applications in the initial pitch?
We are always looking for other platform extensions as a way to extend our marketing reach and promotion for the linear show. For example, we are working on a project right now where the producer has an alliance with Yahoo TV, which will cross-promote the show we are doing. Another example is a show that will feature a celebrity who has over a million Twitter followers. Since TV Guide is an evolving independent network, we are always looking ways to increase our marketing exposure.
What can global programmers learn from the U.S. cable network market and from your network in particular?
American television audiences have so many choices because cable offers a breadth and depth of general and niche programming. Identifying a niche and super-serving the audience are things that U.S. cable programmers do well, which I think could be replicated in other global markets.
In all of television, which classic program should be revived?
One of my favorite shows of the late 70s was “Charlie’s Angels.” I would love to see how that show would be interpreted with today’s sensibilities.
Should NEVER be revived?
Shows like “I Love Lucy,” “Dick Van Dyke” and “Seinfeld” are great classics that should never be touched. They are television masterpieces that should be preserved in our memories in their original forms.
Since joining TV Guide Network in 2009, Ms. Robina has been instrumental in programming the network’s top-rated series and specials to date. She led the production of several brand-defining TV specials such as the popular “25 Biggest TV Blunders” special and the acquisition of the hit comedy series “Weeds.” Ms. Robina also led TV Guide Network’s highly regarded launch of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and its companion promotional series “Curb: The Discussion,” in which TV pundits, social figures and celebrities debated the moral issues of Larry David’s TV character in quick and clever 10 minute panels. Currently, Ms. Robina is in production on TV Guide Network’s new original docu-soap reality series, “The Nail Files,” produced by SallyAnn Salsano and 495 Productions, creators of “Jersey Shore.”
Previously, Ms. Robina served as President of Emerging Networks at Comcast Programming Group, where she was responsible for developing new networks and was also charged with cultivating and overseeing the conception, start-up and operations of the newly created networks. The first of those networks – FEARnet, a joint venture of Comcast, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Television – launched in the fall of 2006 and is a multi-platform network focused on horror and thriller films.
Prior to her arrival at Comcast, Ms. Robina served as Executive Vice President of Acquisition Strategies for MTV Networks where she played a key role in launching new networks, including TV Land, HA! (since renamed Comedy Central), LOGO, Nick UK, Nick Germany, and the re-launch of TNN. She also served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of TNN, and guided the programming, production and marketing effort that resulted in the brand’s evolution into Spike TV. Ms. Robina served as Associate General Manager and Senior Vice President of Nick-At-Nite and TV Land during her tenure. She got her start in television by winning a contest on Nick at Nite that offered a position at the network.
Ms. Robina currently sits on the boards of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (foundation board). Ms. Robina received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware.