ReelzChannel to Air Controversial Kennedys Series
Controversial miniseries The Kennedys-which was dropped by the History channel and passed over by numerous cable networks-has found a home with Minneapolis-based Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.'s ReelzChannel.
ReelzChannel, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will debut the eight-part series on April 3. The channel's CEO, Stan E. Hubbard, acknowledged Monday that it represents a substantial departure from ReelzChannel's current programs-which include Hollywood's Top 10, Carson's Comedy Classics, Brothers and Sisters, and Cheers.
But Hubbard also said that the miniseries perfectly aligns with the mission of ReelzChannel, whose tagline is “TV About Movies” and which has recently forayed into scripted dramas. (Hubbard insists that the series feels very much like a movie.)
The Kennedys was a multimillion-dollar series prepared for the History channel. But concerns about the historical accuracy of the script prompted History to decide not to show it, a move that came as a shock to the TV world and prompted speculation about whether there was more to the decision. Hubbard declined to reveal how much money ReelzChannel paid to get it, other than to say that the deal represented a “substantial discount” from the cost of producing the series.
Hubbard, who watched The Kennedys in its entirety before making the deal, insists that the series was “well researched, well written, and . . . extremely well vetted by professional historians” and is confident about the accuracy of the series and the portrayal of the Kennedys.
“It's clearly a well-known and successful, politically connected family, and all I can think is there are some demons in that family that they prefer are not seen,” Hubbard told Twin Cities Business. “If this were Kennedy bashing, we would not have been comfortable with it.”
Hubbard said that the decision to pick up the miniseries was made within an eight- to 10-day time span, and the fact that Hubbard Broadcasting isn't part of a larger conglomeration worked to its advantage in making the deal.
“I think only an independent network could have stepped up to it,” Hubbard said. “I think any other entity would have had to spend so much time with their boards and with their owners wondering what this means to them that it would have been very hard to make a decision in the time frame that was allowed.”
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. (The History channel, by contrast, is owned by A&E Television Networks, a joint venture of The Hearst Corporation, Disney-ABC Television Group, and NBC Universal.)
According to ReelzChannel, The Kennedys “relives the public and private joys and tragedies of the most influential family in the world, including fraternal rivalries, mob associations, the drugs, and the women.” It's billed as a series that recreates the political crisis that John F. Kennedy faced in the early days of his presidency, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Civil Rights movement.
ReelzChannel is 100 percent ad-supported, and Hubbard said he's confident that The Kennedys will help the network-partly by exposing the brand to the large audience expected to watch the miniseries and, ideally, partly through ad sales.
Hubbard Broadcasting is just starting to try to garner advertisers for the miniseries-and “we'll find out in the marketplace whether or not advertisers are affected by this controversy” over the content, Hubbard said.
But he maintains that securing The Kennedys was a good business decision in addition to the fact that the content is compelling and will resonate with viewers.
“We're not doing this as a public service,” Hubbard said. “But anytime there's a voice that is suppressed, I think there is some value to letting that voice be heard. . . . This will be one of the biggest television events of the decade.”