As Project Blue Book, Knightfall and Vikings all come to an end, History is looking to recalibrate its scripted strategy towards limited dramas and mini-series.
Rob Sharenow, President of Programming at A+E Networks, called returnable scripted series a “fraught path” for the company given the competitive nature of the marketplace.
Speaking on a panel session, moderated by Deadline, at the virtual Edinburgh International TV Festival, Sharenow highlighted the performance of previous minis including Hatfields & McCoys, Roots, Houdini and The Bible. “We’re definitely leaning into limited series and miniseries. That’s traditionally been what’s done best for our audience,” he said.
“The ongoing scripted series market, we’ve done well there too but it’s a more fraught path for us. It’s a very competitive landscape with a lot of dollars being spent. Most of the minis that we gravitate to are pre-sold brands or subjects and in such a congested marketplace, it’s hugely advantage to have a name brand, something that already resonates rather than inventing a completely new universe, where it’s harder to cut through.”
Without giving away too many details, he said that it was developing projects about Alcatraz and a show based in the Roman Empire. “We have identified a few areas where we’re developing that are pre-sold that we know our viewers have an inclination or curiosity about,” he said. “The mini area allows us to go global because we’re leaning into big historic moments.”
As evidenced by the likes of Kevin Costner in Hatfields & McCoys, Malchi Kirby, Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin and Laurence Fishburne in Roots and Adrien Brody in Houdini, he said it was easier to attract top talent to these types of series. “You can also draw bigger actors, actors who do not want to commit to five seasons, they will want to commit to playing a juicy role for a more limited run,” he added.