Seriously now, how many people could successfully create and launch a national television network in this economy while simultaneously overseeing a top-rated and top-billing major market TV station?
Exactly one: Emily Barr, closing in on her 14th‚ year as president and general manager of ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, also is the impresario of Live Well Network, the HD lineup of original programming designed for local stations' digital-tier channels and for online and mobile apps.
On Wednesday, ABC Owned Television Stations Group announced the biggest expansion in the 18-month history of Live Well Network, adding five affiliates owned by Belo Corp. to the 10 ABC-owned stations already onboard. The five new outlets in Dallas, St. Louis, New Orleans, Hampton-Norfolk, Va., and Charlotte, N.C., will sign on Nov. 8. Additional affiliates are expected to join soon.
The network also announced a redesign of the LiveWellNetwork.com website (including enhanced video streaming and a multitude of new features) and the addition of six new half-hour series to the roster of 12 returning shows -- focused on lifestyle, home, health, entertainment and travel. The newcomers include "Here's How, Right Now," a household fix-it series produced by Channel 7 in Chicago and hosted by Joel Schmarge of HGTV's "The Fix" and "Gimme Shelter."
It's a testament to Barr's vision and tenacity that she was able to sell her bosses on the concept of launching a 24/7 network of high quality original programming to be produced by ABC-owned stations, and see it to fruition. Commenting on the latest expansion Wednesday, Barr said:
"We launched Live Well in April 2009 amidst a terrible economy. A year and a half later, we've developed a full-scale network of original programming that's caught on with viewers, advertisers and now a growing list of affiliates.‚ We couldn't be happier."
In Chicago, Live Well Network appears on ABC Digital Channel 7.2, Comcast Channel 217, Wide Open West Channel 219 and RCN Channel 618.
As if she didn't have enough to do, Barr also is busy with plans to launch an ambitious live, local one-hour talk show, featuring multiple hosts and a studio audience, to air at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on Channel 7's lineup. As first tipped here, the tentatively titled "Morning Rush" is expected to debut next year when Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based syndicated show ceases production.
Barr said she expects to name an executive producer for the new show in the next two weeks or so. More than 85 candidates have applied for the position.