The peripatetic Franco will be part of the growth next year, among the splashy names that are a key part of Ovation’s effort to raise its profile.
Details of the upcoming “James Franco Presents” are under wraps, but Weiss said the series will include extensive footage the actor shot in recent years of his art installations, poetry readings, teaching, movies and more, along with new projects and artists he’s fostering.
“I am thrilled to work with Ovation, a network that has devoted itself to the arts. It is a truly unique situation and will yield unique results,” Franco said when the series was announced. It’s set to debut in the first quarter of 2014.
Ovation’s approach also lured “Mad Men” star Hamm. “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” co-produced by Hamm’s Points West production company and starring Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe, followed its British debut with an airing on Ovation despite offers from other U.S. networks, Weiss said.
The same was true with “The Fashion Fund,” featuring Vogue editor Wintour. The series, debuting Jan. 22, will follow the up-and-coming designers who vied for this year’s $300,000 fund grant from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the magazine.
“We knew that Ovation would represent the experience of the competition in a way that no other network could,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of Conde Nast Entertainment, a unit of Vogue publisher Conde Nast.
Weiss’ focus on original programming has already paid off. Time Warner Cable, which dropped the channel at the beginning of this year, said it will restore carriage Jan. 1 and, in a joint release with Ovation, cited its increase of original arts programming and the launch of in-house production unit Ovation Studios.
The new deal with Time Warner restores the channel’s reach to more than 50 million U.S. homes. According to Weiss, the channel also has rebounded from layoffs that he said were part of a reorganization that increased digital and social media staff.