A+E Networks Upfronts: Paul Buccieri On Scripted Plans, Historical Miniseries Push & Kicking Off A PitchFest

A+E Networks is to remain in the high-end scripted market and is looking for its next Hatfields & McCoys.

This comes after it emerged that two of History’s big-ticket dramas, Project Blue Book, and Knightfall, which marked Mark Hamill’s entry into live-action series television, would not return, coming as its flagship drama Vikings is ending after its next ten-part run.

However, A+E Networks Group President Paul Buccieri talked up the company’s upcoming scripted plans, its deep library of television movies for Lifetime and the launch of a PitchFest for producers in an interview with Deadline.

“When you talk about scripted on the A+E portfolio, we have never done as much scripted content as we have in the last couple of years. We’re very much in the scripted game,” he told Deadline. “We still want to be in the returnable series space and we’re looking at a series of scripts right now for future pick-ups. We’re active in that space with a lot of great talent.”

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Hatfields & McCoys, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, was a huge hit for History when it launched in 2012. Buccieri said it was now looking for more historical miniseries. “On History, we think there’s space for us to lean into event minis. We had a tremendous success with Hatfields and McCoys and historical minis would be a great opportunity for us.”

On Lifetime, the company will launch 50 television movies between now and the end of the year and just unveiled projects with high-profile stars including Jamie Lee Curtis, who is starring, directing and exec producing How We Sleep at Night: The Sara Cunningham Story.

The company was particularly pleased with the performance of V.C. Andrews Ruby Landry movie series and Deadline understands that it is set to repeat this with other books by the novelist as well as securing the rights to other libraries in the same vein.

Buccieri said the Lifetime pipeline, and the fact that it commissions and is in production all year round, gives it stability. Last year, the former ITV exec said that Lifetime would use this renewed emphasis on original movies as backdoor pilots and said that this is still the case.

For A&E, the broadcaster revealed another bumper order for Live PD, as well as two new formats, a WWE memorabilia hunt and Jeff Foxworthy series What’s It Worth? Live.

Elsewhere, on History, Buccieri touted its Presidential ambitions, unveiling a major series about the American presidency exec produced by Bill Clinton, as well as docudramas on Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Doris Kearns Goodwin

“We think there’s stories within stories about the presidency,” he said. “It’s an unbelievably pressure-filled job and we think all of them having meaning at different times, with different issues. They are stories of inspiration, we saw that with Washington. We feel very fortunate to be working with great talent and great historians on these.”

The slew of announcements form part of A+E Networks’ virtual upfronts, a move obviously necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Buccieri said that the company has a pipeline of content that takes it into Q3.

During this time, he is also getting creative in terms of the way that ideas land at the cable group. While in lockdown, Buccieri devised a new way for producers to bring ideas to the company’s portfolio of networks. It launched PitchFest, talking to agents and producers, to bring it new ideas. “Right now, as we speak, we’re having a PitchFest across all of our brands so that’s going on. We started that while we were in this crisis, it’s a time to lean into our creative. This is a time where we can be proactive rather than reactive. Seeding ideas to producers, bringing in more pitches and taking up a tremendous amount of content,” he said.

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