ION Starts Making Movies

Advert integration planned
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WEST PALM BEACH: ION Television intends to develop and produce 12 original films a year, with the first one to premiere late this year. The network said it would “commission originally produced films and offer integrated marketing opportunities to advertisers who seek an alternative and expanded way to reach the consumer.”

The network continues an evolution that started when it was born of the former Paxson properties, including the network and its 60 TV stations. Paxson’s primary rotation was infomercials, shows like “Touched by an Angel” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and late-night religious programming. As ION, formed in 2006, the network has built a program schedule on mostly off-network series--“NCIS,” “ER,” “Boston Legal,” and soon, Ghost Whisperer” and “Criminal Minds.”

The addition of the movies is the network’s first step into originals, and represents the continued revamp funded by a $100 million investment from the owner, Chicago’s Citadel Investment Group.

“ION is committed to a programming strategy that operates simultaneously on two tracks,” said Leslie Chesloff, executive vice president of programming. “First, as is indicated by the development of these films, we are fast-tracking the production of our own original content. Second, as our success with ‘Boston Legal’ and ‘NCIS’ proves, there is an audience for top rated off-network series. We are in the market for hit comedies and dramas and we will continue to add to our schedule as they become available. The announcement of these 12 movies is only the first step as we continue to expand our original production schedule.”

ION said viewership among adults 25 to 54 is up 30 percent since launching a rebranding last fall. A total of 21 “blue chip” advertisers were said to have signed onto the network during the period. -- Deborah D. McAdams