Satellite broadcaster DirecTV is taking the next step with its in-house channel Audience Network.
Best known as the channel that gave a second chance to critically acclaimed but low-rated dramas "Damages" and "Friday Night Lights," the Audience Network is now making a big push into original scripted programming with the drama "Rogue."
Set to premiere in April, "Rogue" is a gritty and dark look at a detective (Thandie Newton) who goes undercover and finds herself crossing lines and putting her career in jeopardy. The Audience Network has ordered 10 episodes and owns half of the show.
While the Audience Network has delved into original programming before with its simulcast of Dan Patrick's sports radio morning show, "Rogue" is the first dramatic series it has been involved in from the ground up. Last year, it acquired the U.S. rights to "Hit and Miss," a drama that played overseas starring Chloe Sevigny as a contract killer who is also a transgender woman.
DirecTV senior vice president Chris Long said his goal is to have four original dramas and comedies on Audience Network within the next three to five years.
"You have to start slow," Long said.
In the meantime, DirecTV will continue to acquire product it hopes will build awareness for the channel. It recently bought rights to all the episodes of the Fox action show "24."
For DirecTV, Audience Network is strictly a promotional platform.
"It is about differentiating us from other distributors and having exclusive content," Long said. DirecTV subscribers, he added, do not pay a fee to get the channel. "There is no hidden cost, it is absolutely free." With regards to its programming budget, Long said, "obviously we have to look for bargains because we don't have the budgets of other competitors."
DirecTV says 4 million and 6 million of its 20 million subscribers watch the channel on a weekly basis. For now, Long said there are no plans to offer the network to other pay-TV distributors. While the Federal Communications Commission has had rules requiring cable operators to sell channels they own to competitors, there have never been such rules for satellite broadcasters including DirecTV.
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