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Suzanne Kolb Readies for an E! Brand Audit

7/11/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Suzanne Kolb likes where E! is today,
but firmly believes, as the network takes stock of itself through
a brand audit, it will end up in a better place down the road.

Kolb, who had been serving as president for marketing,
news and online at E! and The Style Network, was
promoted on July 7 to president of E!, a role vacated
last November by Ted Harbert, who was
named chairman of NBC Broadcasting in advance
of Comcast’s securing a controlling interest in
NBCUniversal from General Electric.

With E! moving under her purview following the
completion of the transaction in January, Bonnie
Hammer, chairman of cable entertainment and cable
studios at NBCUniversal, led the executive search before
choosing Kolb from among a senior management
team comprising longtime network executives COO
Steve Dolcemaschio, president of entertainment programming
Lisa Berger, and executive vice president
of research and program strategy Cyndi McClellan.

Previously executive vice president of marketing
for The WB, Kolb joined the programmer in 2005 as
senior VP, marketing, for E! Networks, and was subsequently
elevated to CMO for E! and Style, and general manager,
E! Online. She has overseen the marketing strategies and creative
behind the networks’ most successful and popular franchises,
including E!’s Kardashians franchise, Chelsea Lately,
The Soup
and Fashion Police, as well as Style series Ruby, Giuliana
& Bill, Jerseylicious
and Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane,
among others.

Working with what she calls “the best management team
in the business,” Kolb said, “We have momentum in our current
position.”

Q2 GAINS AMONG WOMEN

During the second quarter, E! rang up gains of 6%, 3%
and 9% among women 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, respectively,
according to Nielsen data.

Relative to the brand audit — USA Network undertook a
similar enterprise under Hammer’s watch seven years ago,
ahead of the “characters network” vaulting to the top spot
in basic cable — Kolb said E!’s assessment will be completed
by fall.

“We’re digging deep into the data from all our constituencies
— viewers, advertisers and distributors,” she said. “We just
don’t want to hear from people who love you. I think we’ll find
some disconnect between the parties.”

She said the strategizing/planning aspects based on audit
findings will take place by the end of the year, and “then you’ll
see some changes beginning to take shape in 2012. We’re doing
nicely, but we’ll do much better.”

To achieve that, Kolb said, the network has work to do with
a number of viewing subsets.

MEN ARE WATCHING, TOO

“E! has a lot of passionate watchers and a number of casual
viewers who dip in and out,” she explained. “We
need to convert more of the casual viewers to the passionate
camp, without alienating our passionate core.
To grow to a new level, we also have to get new viewers.”

Some of those could come from a surprising
source. “My assumption coming in was that E! was
predominantly a female-skewing network. But
what I’ve found is that many young men, guys 17
to 20, watch E!” Hammer said. Anecdotal information
garnered from a key group — her son and his
friends — confirmed her new view of the network’s
audience composition. “They were all watching The
Kardashians, E! News
and The Soup,” she said.

Added Kolb: “There’s a misconception that E!’s a female
network. It’s really a young-adult network, people 18 to
34, and a somewhat more general network with 18-to-49-yearolds.
I think it’s tough to be a young adult dating today and not
be watching E!”

Speaking of the California celebrity clan, Kolb said: “We
love the Kardashians. They’ve been an incredible franchise
for the network. They’re the Dynasty of this generation.”

September