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Q&A: Jim Samples, Scripps Networks Interactive


Jim Samples

Jim Samples, president, international, Scripps Networks Interactive, talks about plans for thematic channels, the free-to-air market and the company’s plans for TVN in Poland.

What are your principal goals for Scripps Networks’ thematic lifestyle channels business for the next year?
We have seen tremendous growth in Scripps Networks’ international division since launching the business in 2009. Today we distribute seven lifestyle entertainment brands led by Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel in 175 countries and territories around the world. To reflect our commitment to building out our lifestyle channel portfolio across the globe, Derek Chang, who was named our new head of international lifestyle channels, will lead and set the strategic direction for our international owned and operated lifestyle channels. He will be responsible for growing distribution, launching new channels and setting priorities for new market development.

How significant is the free-to-air opportunity compared with the pay TV market and what factors will determine whether you choose pay TV or free TV as your route to any given market?
As we continue to focus on expanding the distribution of our brands, we will be flexible on our routes to market.  We will continue to be primarily a pay TV business, but our international strategy is not one-size-fits all. In some instances, that will include free-to-air; in other cases it may be OTT.  In Italy, we launched Fine Living on DTT based on the economies of scale there. We also have FTA networks in the UK, Poland and New Zealand. In Australia, we created a partnership with SBS to launch Food Network on FTA and with Nine Network to create an HGTV-branded programming block on NineLife.

How significant is the opportunity to launch additional channel brands around the world and what are you prioritizing?
A key priority for my team is to rollout HGTV around the world. This year, we launched HGTV in New Zealand and expanded the channel’s distribution across Asia. We are anticipating launches in the Middle East, North Africa and Poland in the coming months. For Food Network, we’ve seen great strides in Latin America including expanding distribution into Mexico for the first time while extending distribution in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay. As we move into 2017, we will look to keep the momentum going as we further build out our lifestyle portfolio in key global markets.

What are your priorities for TVN for the next year and what is your view of prospects for the Polish market overall?
Poland is a thriving economy with great opportunities in the media industry, and TVN is a very successful and highly vertically integrated media company. It’s been over a year since we acquired TVN, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress. TVN has strong broadcast, pay TV and DTT channels – and are now leading the charge in digital with their OTT platform Player.pl. We are actively supporting this strategy while we further integrate the TVN team into the SNI family.

What plans do you have to evolve TVN’s digital and thematic channel business over the coming couple of years?
TVN already has a strong thematic channels business. TVN Style and TVN Turbo are the leading lifestyle brands for women and men in the market, respectively. We will look to complement what they are doing so well with our own lifestyle business, including sharing great programming ideas that can play well on either our US or Polish lifestyle channels and creating more productions in Poland for US and international distribution.

TVN is already a leader in digital with more than two and a half million registered users on its VOD platform, Player.pl. With more than eight hours of average time spent per month, TVN’s Player has the most loyal users in the Polish OTT market, including Millennials. That’s really ground-breaking, and our team in the US will work with the TVN digital team to share ideas and best practices.

In populating your channels, what is the ideal balance between original content that has local appeal and content that has global reach?
Scripps is the world’s leading producer of lifestyle programming about home, food and travel, producing 2,500 hours of content a year. It’s only natural that our US output provides a tremendous competitive advantage as we grow our lifestyle brands internationally. However, we know that to lead in our categories, it is imperative to have a localization strategy that connects closely with viewers in each market, reflecting and celebrating their cultures and interests. For example, in Asia, we produce House Hunters Asia, a local version of the US juggernaut. In Latin America, the Food Network team are currently producing Locos x el Asado featuring expert grill master Luciano ‘El Laucha’. And, in the UK, we have produced shows like Siba’s Table, Follow Donal to Europe, and most recently, Paul Hollywood City Bakes.


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