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August 21, 2012

TLC's gamble: Sticking to reality

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"The best brands have a great portfolio of different types of experiences," said Jerry Leo, executive vice president of program strategy and production for Bravo. "We're strong now with six nights of original programming and it just made sense to take it to the next level. We're close to the top 10 and believe scripted [shows] will catapult us there."

Leo said Bravo never aimed to be a reality network; it just wanted to garner a strong enough following to justify the cost of scripted programming. After six years of growth, he said the company has the financial wherewithal to endure the risk of bankrolling a fictional series.

"Scripted is a natural fit for Bravo because the brand lends itself to drama," said Gordon of MagnaGlobal. "It's a little bit harder to think of a scripted series that would fit the TLC brand."

It's not like TLC hasn't dappled in scripted programming in the past, but those attempts have mainly been reenactments in documentaries.

"We are always open to exploring different formats, as long as they fit our brand promise," Winter said. "We just don't have anything in the works at present."

For now, TLC plans to build upon its successful franchises. Winter said the network is expanding its Friday night block of wedding shows to Thursday, with two hours of "Four Weddings," a bride competition. The network is also rolling out three more wedding shows next year, including "Maids of Dishonor," a show about — you guessed it — troublesome maids of honor.

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While it has been years since TLC has cracked the top 10 cable network ranks, Nielsen routinely lists several of its shows, including "Long Island Medium" and "Say Yes to the Dress," as top prime-time cable programs among women.

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