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Q&A: Jim Samples, Scripps Networks Interactive

SNi_DIM_BlueJim Samples, president, international, Scripps Networks Interactive, talks about his company’s acquisition of Poland’s TVN and further plans in the CEE region.

130923_SNI_JimSamples_0094ret[1]What were the attractions of TVN for Scripps and why is it a good fit for the group? 

We were looking to buy well-managed media groups in promising, growing markets. TVN in Poland fit all those criteria.  Once they started the sales process, it became clear that this company checked a lot of boxes for what we were looking for in a media partner – a very well-managed and profitable company in a market that was welcoming to international investors, with a management team that was eager to stay on board. The other thing I very much liked is that they have so successfully managed this transition from being a broadcast network-type of company to a company with a suite of properties including strong thematic channels and a vision for moving loyal viewers to a non-linear platform in the shape of TVN Player.

Poland represents a microcosm of trends in media and TVN is adapting and navigating those trends. They are a great fit. They appeal more to women, like we do, and they have an aspirational audience. The profile of their audience is attractive to us, particularly since we think they have an opportunity to continue to grow their thematic channels business and strengthen their network portfolio.

How is the integration of the group progressing and what are your ambitions in Poland for the rest of the year?

The transition is going smoothly. TVN is such an attractive company that we were happy to step up our participation. TVN has now been delisted, and we’re just working through that process. What that means is, we do not have two publicly traded companies to manage, which facilitates longer-term strategic planning.

What specific synergies are there between TVN – including its free-to-air broadcast operations and its stake in nc+ – and Scripps’ existing pay TV business in the CEE region?

Dorota Szelągowska in Poland's version of Kitchen Crashers

Dorota Szelągowska in Poland’s version of Kitchen Crashers

First, the investment we made was large, and it was about believing in the strategy and vision of TVN’s management team. We think they have a lot of opportunity to grow. That was the most important driver for the acquisition, rather than synergies. It was more about investing in their strategic plan and enhancing their lifestyle channels with our content and knowhow.

We have already been looking at our formats and TVN was eager to look at those for things that make sense. The first one they are going to do is Kitchen Crashers, which has been a very successful format for us. TVN will begin production on that show for next year, and we will also share some programming from our U.S. output.

There are other interesting opportunities to strengthen their thematic channels but the real strength of TVN is their prolific output of original programming that feeds their networks.  That will very much continue. What we bring to the table is complementary.

How attractive is the free TV market in Europe generally – and central and eastern Europe in particular – for Scripps and how big a part of the overall business do you envisage this becoming?

We entered the Polish market nearly five years ago with the launch of Food Network. We acquired Travel Channel shortly thereafter. Today, we are participating in the Polish digital-terrestrial process to secure a license for a third channel in the market. This would mark our third FTA market in EMEA, which also includes the UK and Italy. We look at each market on a case-by-case basis. Does the advertising market support it? Is there a niche that we can carve out with a broad appeal for a free-to-air audience? We like the idea that between our own networks in Poland and what TVN brings to the table, we have a full suite of programming across the free-to-air spectrum.

What are your main goals for your thematic channels in central and eastern Europe for the next year? Is it all about expanding distribution of existing services or do you plan any new brand launches?

The TVN opportunity is unique and those don’t come along every day. We will continue to look at other opportunities in the region, but the core of our business, is our portfolio of channels – Food Network, Travel Channel and Fine Living. In the past year alone, we have announced 15 new launches across Central and Eastern Europe alone. Distribution has been growing, ratings have been growing, and we think there is more growth to be had so we will continue to invest in those channels. That said, our teams in the UK and in Poland – who are very familiar with those markets – will look for new opportunities, whether through organic growth of our channels, new partnerships or through new acquisitions.

What plans do you have to further localise your services in the region and what level of content investment do you envisage to further this? What other plans do you have for new content across the region for the near term?

A key driver for success in launching businesses around the world is localization. Today, we offer 10 localized feeds in 22 languages in 120 countries and territories across EMEA. Further investment in local productions will be a priority for us as we look to grow our business.  Our goal is to be the market leader in lifestyle, food and travel in each of the markets in which we are present.  We’ve made very good progress towards realising that vision.

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