Robert DeBitetto and Nancy Dubuc on social TV at the A+E Networks upfront

By Natan Edelsburg 

Last night media buyers poured into the Tent at Lincoln Center, a beautiful venue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to witness the A+E Networks upfront. HISTORY, Lifetime and A&E were the center of the evening with highlights on both returning and new programming. Not surprisingly A+E made sure to highlight their social footprint. We spoke with Robert DeBitetto the President and General Manager of A&E Network and BIO, and Nancy Dubuc the President and General Manager of HISTORY and Lifetime after their presentations.

One of A&E’s big new announcements was “Southie Rules,” a show that will, “follow a native south boston family as they fight among themselves and against the relentless gentrification of their neighborhood.” During his presentation he told the crowd how, “last year was our best year ever across all demos, we grew for an eight consecutive year, the longest stream in cable.” We caught up with DeBitetto after his presentation and asked him how he thinks social is affecting traditional television:

First I think it’s the savior of the television business a little. It’s certainly a savior of the linear television experience. What we’re experiencing is that with breakout shows, the live premiere of that show is becoming a social event, or is capable of becoming a social event, because fans can now have a real-time conversation about what they’re feeling. They tweet about it, they’re on Facebook, it lends that immediacy to the conversation. Yes, you can watch it on a time-shifted basis and yes you can download it on iTunes a month later — there’s a lot of fragmentation going on — but if you really want to be part of that core conversation around the show you have to see it live. I have found for our network in particular, A&E, we have found social media to be an incredible opportunity for us – to cultivate fans, to cultivate communities around not just the network franchises but the show franchises. Also, we’ve found it an incredibly efficient marketing platform to try and market our brand. You’re talking to someone who’s a real evangelist for social media.

Lifetime and HISTORY also had some big announcements. Lifetime renewed its hit show “The Client List” with Jennifer Love Hewitt who was in-house and announced a new original movie, “The June Carter Cash Story.” HISTORY announced “Mountain Men” a show about surviving in the wilderness and Hatfields and McCoys a scripted show with Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton (our earlier story here).

As Dubuc was enjoying Florence and the Machine perform after her presentation, she told us how, “social media is important for marketing,” and how important it is for the network to still, “keep our eyes on the prize,” referring to linear TV. During her presentation she told the crowd how HISTORY was number one TV network on Foursquare among other successes.

A+E’s social team was also very active in promoting the upfront. There was a social TV area with iPads, interactive displays and a banner displaying their social reach. They’re even pushing #AERealtime to cultivate social TV fans.