Kennedys Reels in Record 1.9M ReelzChannel Viewers

The cable network, which scooped up the controversial miniseries after the History channel dropped it, has seen increased interest since it began marketing the program and achieved record viewers during its Sunday debut.

The Kennedys, a controversial miniseries that made its debut Sunday night, reeled in a record 1.9 million total viewers for cable network ReelzChannel.

ReelzChannel-based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and owned by Minneapolis-based Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.-scooped up the multimillion-dollar series in February after it was dropped by the History channel and passed over by numerous cable networks due to concerns about the historical accuracy of the script.

The 1.9 million views includes 1.3 million for the Sunday premiere and 600,000 for an encore immediately afterward.

The household rating for the Sunday showings of The Kennedys was 1.7. Ratings are reported by Nielsen Company, and each ratings point represents 1 percent of U.S. homes that have televisions.

“Viewers across America showed their ongoing fascination with the Kennedy family and, specifically, their desire to see such a star-studded cast in the highly-anticipated The Kennedys,” ReelzChannel CEO Stan E. Hubbard said in a statement. “In acquiring The Kennedys, our aim was to give viewers an opportunity to watch an incredible movie event with massive star power and to also put a spotlight on our network like never before.”

Even before The Kennedys aired, the eight-part miniseries spurred interest in ReelzChannel. After acquiring The Kennedys and promoting it through various paid media outlets, the network nearly doubled its weekly unique viewers-those who spend at least six minutes on it-from 3 million in January to about 5.5 million in early March. Meanwhile, the amount of time viewers spent watching the channel was also up about 35 percent in early March.

Hubbard said last month that he expects that unique viewers will reach between 10 million and 12 million in April. He reportedly paid $7 million for The Kennedys, and he poured an estimated $10 million into promoting it.

Hubbard's challenge is to keep viewers coming back after The Kennedys is over. To that end, ReelzChannel has developed programming around the miniseries to try to get viewers interested in other network offerings-including a “pre-game” show immediately prior to its debut.

The fledgling channel, which is 100 percent ad-supported, went on the air in 2006 but still loses about $10 million annually. Because of ReelzChannel's substantial investment in The Kennedys and the marketing of it, Hubbard expects a similar situation this year. But he also hopes to double the network's $15 million annual revenue by the end of 2011. He has acknowledged that $30 million is ambitious but also insists that it's “definitely deliverable.”

Hubbard Broadcasting, founded in 1923, is a family-owned and family-operated business that's one of the last independent broadcasting companies in the United States. To read more about Hubbard Broadcasting and its CEO, Stanley S. Hubbard-the father of ReelzChannel CEO Stan E. Hubbard-check out the cover story in Twin Cities Business' February issue.