After a relaunch last June, US pay TV channel has boosted its distribution and it now carried on DTH platform DirecTV. The channel is backed by the Weinstein Company, Hubbard Broadcasting and a group of private funds. Ex- A&E, Bravo and Trio programming exec Kris Slava is the LA-based senior VP of programming for the channel.
What’s the profile of the channel?
We are an arts channel for the twenty-first century. A line used to be drawn between ‘high art’ and ‘low art’, but those walls have come down. We have shows with broad appeal and hopefully these can lead people to things that are little more obscure or to someone or something they may not have heard of.
What’s the target demo?
The bull’s-eye target demo is 35-to40. In traditional demo terms it’s 25-to-39.
What’s the programming strategy?
We programme by genre through the week. Monday is performance, Tuesday people, Wednesday is visual arts – photography has been a great category for us – Thursday is music and Friday is film. Saturday is ‘Destination Art House’ with classic art house movies.
Who is the competition?
In terms of what we are buying it’s PBS and Sundance.
Tell us about the relaunch
We relaunched in June 2007. We were in five million households and had drifted away a bit. Now we’re in 28 million, so it’s been a good first year. We’re on cable, both DTH platforms and the Verizon FiOS service.
What’s the mix of acquired/original programming?
It’s about 5% original and 95% acquired. We will ramp up original programming as time goes by but we haven’t settled on the ideal mix yet. We have just launched our second original concert series Bonefish Grill’s Notes from the Road (Elevation Entertainment) and we also have Artists Den (Artists Den Entertainment).
We also do back-door pilots and see how things do in terms of press, audience enthusiasm and advertiser enthusiasm; those are the measures of success. We are piloting an auction show Forbes Sold!: Million Dollar Auction.
The good thing for us is there is a lot of incredible stuff, with a long shelf-life, to acquire.
Who are you acquiring from?
We acquire from everyone from major studios to big international suppliers to moderate sized suppliers to individual producers that have unique product – we license a lot of one-offs.
For the classical performance stuff we go to people like Digital Classics, NBD and 3DD. We also go broader and deal with companies like [Germany’s] Euroarts. The challenge here is to make the content urgent and connect with the audience. We are always looking for pieces that have been produced in the international market and not been seen for a long time in the US.
And for documentaries?
For docs we go to the likes of C4i, BBC Worldwide and Granada, where we have also picked up some scripted costume drama, miniseries and TV movies based on literary works and we’re looking for more of those.