In terms of acquiring content, how useful is NATPE?
While we rarely acquire content at the meeting itself, I always find NATPE to be productive on some level each year. We usually return from NATPE with several interesting leads for potential programming, new ideas to noodle with and new relationships that have paid off in the long term.
I think that NATPE is a more effective meeting for the US domestic marketplace as it’s a bit more focused on our market vs. MIP TV, which tends to be more international in scope. However, the Latin American presence has really increased at NATPE over the past several years.
Are there any holes in the schedules on the channels for which you are responsible that you are looking to fill (with acquired content)? What is on your ‘shopping list’ for NATPE?
I look at our schedule a bit different than the question posed. We typically do not have big holes in our schedule as we have a healthy library of our own original content to draw from. When we evaluate content for potential acquisition I ask myself “will this show meaningfully improve a time period on our schedule at a price that makes sense for us”? If the answer is “yes” to both of these we’re going to move forward.
However, we don’t necessarily have a shopping list. For us it’s more of an exploratory experience where we hope to stumble across something we weren’t already aware of. Most of the high-profile off-net product, which is what A&E typically targets, comes to the market place on a case-by-case basis based on individual studio strategies for maximizing their sales.
In terms of acquired programming, what has worked really well on the A&E channels recently? We’ve had great success with Criminal Minds over the past couple of years on A&E. On BIO Channel we recently licensed American Gangster, and a number of off-broadcast celebrity driven specials such as The Cosby Reunion and Behind The Sitcom Scandals, which have performed well for us.
Are you just acquiring finished programming or formats as well and what part does coproduction play in your plans?
We acquire both finished programming and formats. In fact, we currently have several international formats in the development pipeline we are excited about. Our philosophy is to own as much of our original content as much as possible so we typically stay away from coproductions for the most part on the non-fiction side.
On the scripted drama side, typically we do a coproduction with a studio whereby we have the US domestic rights and they sell the show internationally.
A&E has had a very strong year, how will you help to build upon that in 2012?
2011 has been a great year for us. It was the #1 year for us ever across the board and completes the 8th consecutive year we have grown our audience in our core A25-54 demo (the longest growth streak in cable) so our work is cut out for us.
However, I do think we have the goods in-house to deliver on a 9th year of growth in 2012. We currently do not have any big new off-nets coming our way next year so our growth will be predicated on leveraging the power of our current stable of successful returning franchises, highlighted by our new breakout hit series Storage Wars, combined with new series that we’ll be launching from our robust original development slate.
We’re very excited about several projects that will launch this year and hope to break some fresh ground in terms of genres and spaces that have never been seen before on television.
We’ve built our foundation on being the trailblazer of new genres (such as Intervention, Storage Wars and Beyond Scared Straight) and will continue to do so. Being derivative is an easier path, but a middling strategy that’s not for us.