A+E Networks president of entertainment and media Nancy Dubuc appeared for a Media Mastermind Keynote this morning in Cannes. The recently promoted exec reflected on the evolution of History which has been scoring big wins including with recent mini Hatfields & McCoys. A few years back, she said, “We knew in our gut that History needed to be more than a timeline.” With surprisingly successful shows like Ice Road Truckers and Pawn Stars, Dubuc said, “I think the culture and DNA of our organization is to take risks.”

Dubuc qualified the controversial upcoming Lifetime movie Liz & Dick starring Lindsay Lohan as a risk, but said everyone was well aware ahead of time. “It was framed from the point of view of me informing everybody: ‘Here’s the situation, here are the risks I’m taking, so hold on.’”

The buzzy movie debuts on Thanksgiving weekend and Dubuc maintains that Lifetime needs to get even buzzier. “There’s no question, Lifetime must evolve. It’s a work in progress right now.” A series project from Renee Zellweger is on deck at the network, the saucy Jennifer Love Hewitt series The Client List is getting a second season and the Steel Magnolias reboot just debuted last night with a cast that includes Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad. Dubuc joked that Zellweger, Latifah and Love Hewitt were “all in my will now.” On a more serious note, she sounded a challenge to the Hollywood community that laments the lack of female-driven projects, “You can’t go out and talk about it and not come,” to Lifetime, she said.

One of the key issues for Dubuc’s team has been how to be more compelling and how to be first. “I believe first always wins,” she said. On challenges, she said the industry as a whole seems to be “spending more time talking about the transaction than the creative.” Deal structure, she contended, “is all fine and good but when that conversation comes before [talking about] what’s a great show and why it’s great, the scale is tipping in the wrong direction… Successful shows will always generate great business deals in the future.”

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