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When it comes to lifestyle content, TLC has been one of the go-to channels since 2011. But with entertainment now permeating the channel’s programming, it is being re-branded as TLC Entertainment with a titanic drawcard – Oprah Winfrey’s biggest celebrity interviews on the Oprah Winfrey Network will have its own block on the channel. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with Discovery Network’s channel director, Lee Hobbs, to find out more about them upping the entertainment ante á la E!
While shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Breaking Amish have become huge talking points on TLC, they also revealed a gap in the market TLC could take full advantage of.
With the TLC brand owned by Discovery Networks, Lee Hobbs, the channel director, overseeing central and western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says the marriage between lifestyle and entertainment content – born from the success of the aforementioned shows and others – was the catalyst in the channel’s rebranding.
He said: “We have been planning the channel for some time; we have been in dialogue with DStv. Basically, the idea was to offer DStv a bigger and better TLC than they have. It is to take the success (of TLC) to a whole new level.
“I think, for us, adding entertainment to the name reflects that TLC is much more than a lifestyle channel. With a number of shows like Breaking Amish and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, they were much more entertainment offerings. And we wanted to reflect that.”
But the talking point of the rebranding is the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) entertainment block. Interestingly, Winfrey was at the TLC Entertainment launch on Monday where she announced her delight to be back on South African screens while also expanding on her affinity with the people here.
Hobbs continued: “We are very excited, as you can imagine. We actually have so many great episodes of Oprah’s Next Chapter. To start, we wanted to do something topical and relevant. We thought it would be great – with Rihanna performing here – to start with her at-home interview. We are also very excited about Lindsay Lohan launching on the same night as well. In week two, we have an up-close-and-personal interview with Beyoncé. This is followed by Oprah’s Master Class, which talks at length about Jay-Z’s journey. It is a wonderful show and is going to prove very popular.”
Just to add some clarity, viewers will get to see the following content on the OWN block on Thursdays and Sundays: Oprah’s Next Chapter, which includes interviews with the biggest newsmakers of today; Oprah’s Master Class focuses on Oprah uncovering the successes, failures and invaluable life lessons of some of our most brilliant minds such as Dr Condoleezza Rice, Sidney Poitier, Simon Cowell, Lorne Michaels, Dr Maya Angelou and Diane Sawyer; Oprah’s Lifeclass, where she chats to hand-picked experts while sharing lessons and principles that have been cornerstones in her life; and, lastly, Super Soul Sunday, where she sits down with the likes of Elie Wiesel, Wayne Dyer, Gary Zukav, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson and Ram Dass to shed light on the road to spirituality, happiness and personal fulfilment.
Hobbs explained: “We are handpicking and working closely with the OWN team to select programmes we think will work well with South African viewers. It does not follow chronologically with the airing dates in the US.
“Rihanna was filmed a while back and Lindsay’s interview about a month back. She talked about coming out of rehab and Oprah really gets Lindsay to open up. We make sure everything is topical and works with viewers as well as fits in with the ethos of the channel.”
About some of the new offerings on the channel, he shared: “We are really excited about Sisterhood, which is a reality series based in Atlanta. It follows the real wives of preachers – but they are not your typical vicar wives. They have lots of bling and are really fashionable.
“They are a twist, in a way, on the whole Real Housewives. It follows the characters, the rivalry and friendships and will make for compelling viewing.
“We have a spin-off of Breaking Amish, which is based in Los Angeles. We also have Totally T-Boz, which follows TLC member Tionne Watkins trying to make it big again and raise her profile. She is an amazing character and we do know from our research in South Africa, it is the characters that really work. We are spending a lot of time looking at new faces and characters for the channel.”
Overall, Hobbs says, in future, the channel will be more character- and personality-driven. Aside from including a new cheeky voiceover artist, they are also contemplating – at some point in the future – commissioning local offerings for the channel.
The fresh tagline is: “Life worth watching”. And if the content is anything to go by, viewers will certainly be doing a lot of it; especially with new seasons of Cake Boss, Say Yes to the Dress and Mob Wives.