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Look for a new reality for Lifetime under new president Nancy Dubuc

April 27, 2010 |  2:38 pm

So will Lifetime's next show be “Ax Women?”

Probably not, but look for the cable channel's new president, Nancy Dubuc, to bring the same strategy she used to make History Channel so hot in the ratings to her new gig.

DUBUC In a brief interview, Dubuc, who will continue as president of History Channel while running Lifetime, kept mum on much of her programming strategy, but acknowledged that one of her top priorities will be to develop some hit reality shows.

“We most definitely need to find a way to be successful in reality,” she said.

It's not just because such shows are popular with viewers. They are also cheaper. Programs she championed at History Channel include “Ax Men,” which is about loggers, not fans of the body spray; “Pawn Stars,” a reality show about people who go searching for the odd and arcane at pawn shops; and “Ice Road Truckers,” about, well, truckers who drive on ice.

Lifetime has tried for years to establish itself in the reality space. Part of the problem is that its core audience is older while the majority of reality TV shows appeal to younger viewers. This has been the challenge for Lifetime for almost a decade. It wants to be both a hip channel to glamorous girls on the coasts while maintaining its core female audience in flyover country that want to watch “Army Wives.”

One of the oldest cable networks, Lifetime used to own the female audience. It has seen its hold on women fade as Oxygen, Bravo, TLC, and even less-niche networks such as USA and TNT have gotten more aggressive in going after the female audience. Next year, Oprah Winfrey will launch OWN in partnership with Discovery Communications, and that channel is also expected to be aimed at women.

“There are many more channels fighting for bigger audiences especially in the female space,” Dubuc said.

Some have criticized Dubuc’s tenure at the History Channel because she moved the network away from some of its more traditional documentary fare. Even “America: The Story of Us,” its latest historical show, has been panned by many critics. That the first person the series interviewed about America was Donald Trump and the second was actor Michael Douglas probably didn’t help the network make its case that it was still serious about history.

But in terms of the bottom line, Dubuc’s approach has paid off. History Channel has gotten some of its best ratings ever in the last year. Needless to say though, Tony Soprano would no longer recognize what was his favorite network.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Nancy Dubuc. Credit: A&E Television Networks