Long reads


The channels survey

Sherlock is a key show for BBC Worldwide.

Sherlock is a key show for BBC Worldwide.

In the run-up to April’s MIPTV market, Digital TV Europe surveys top channel providers to find out about their priorities for the year ahead.

What would you would like to achieve this year?

Bruce Tuchman, president, AMC/Sundance Channel Global 

Number one is to continue our growth trajectory. We are in over 64 countries and in the last month we added two new territories – Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa.  We are looking forward to that growth continuing. We want to solidify our message that there is a whole new way consumers want to watch TV. They want quality, compelling, smart content that is available anytime, anywhere. Sundance stands for uncompromising quality. We are trying to further promote that. We are excited to bring movies fresh from the festival and will continue to build on that.

Ian McDonough, executive vice president for CEMA, BBC Worldwide

The successful launch of one of our new global consumer brands – BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth in a new market.

Nick Thorogood, senior vice-president of content and marketing for EMEA, Scripps Networks Interactive

The successful launch for our new lifestyle channel, Fine Living, in Italy is very much a priority for us this year. Fine Living is already broadcasting in over 70 countries worldwide and we’re excited about bringing quality lifestyle programming to this new territory.

Dee Forbes, president & MD, Discovery Networks Western Europe

We will continue to look for ways to build scale in western Europe through our strategy of content creation, organic growth and strategic acquisitions where it makes sense. This will include looking at Eurosport and understanding how it works in our business. As Europe comes out of recession we will continue to  look for opportunities to build scale and audiences to provide strong channels that have substantial reach.

Laurent Dumeau, CEO, Trace Sport Stars

After a number of years of rapid global expansion, we will focus our efforts in the coming year in a few key markets such as English-speaking Africa and France. We will launch our full product portfolio to deliver a 360-degree brand experience to Trace lovers with our long term partners, the pay TV operators, but also by launching new Trace-branded services with new partners such as mobile operators.

Dean Possenniskie, managing director, Europe, A+E Networks

Growing Crime + Investigation and maintaining History in Italy, so that we capture the top two factual spots on Sky Italia. A+E Networks Italy is our first wholly owned operation in Europe with a strong local management team based in Rome. I expect our team to continue to grow the audiences of CI and History, while we look at opportunities to launch new channel brands such as A&E and Lifetime in Italy.

What was the highlight of the year in 2013?

Laurent Dumeau, Trace Sport Stars

2013 was Trace’s 10th birthday. The year was dedicated to innovation, whereby we launched several new products and digital initiatives to deliver the TRACE experience in many more ways. Overall, the highlight was certainly TRACE Urban Music Awards and the launch of TRACE Stars (mobile singing competition). It is through these events we connect directly with our audiences.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

Winning a SAFTA (South African BAFTA) for our original commission Come Dine With Me South Africa. It gave us the confidence and credibility in our local commissioning capability.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

Launching three new channel brands in Europe – Lifetime, A&E and H2. Lifetime and H2 both had successful UK launches in 2013 and will build in 2014 with shows such as Big History and Bonnie & Clyde premiering in February. Planete+ A&E has made a strong start in France, combining the best of A+E Networks’ factual entertainment franchises such as Storage Wars and Duck Dynasty, with a wide range of local commissions from our partner, Canal+.

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

The first would be the successful re-launch of the Travel Channel brand, following the channel acquisition in 2012. We gave the channel a full overhaul across all markets and audiences are really enjoying the new look and feel, along with great programming. Winning the best specialist channel for Food Network at the Freesat awards was also something we were hugely proud of, along with Food Network UK becoming the number one lifestyle channel in our market. That was pretty special too, and testament to the channel’s strength.

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global 

I think our launch in Latin America, which overnight gave us millions of new homes. Our participation at Sundance is always a real personal highlight. Also, I would say the introduction of some great shows we added. I love Rectify. Breaking Bad peformed strongly. In general the highlight was the growth of our business.

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

We have really focused on being innovative and building scale. This strategy really paid off with Discovery breaking ratings targets in nearly every market and achieving a 48% increase in audience numbers for the year.  Last year we became the third biggest broadcaster in Italy through investment in content and our existing channels business and the purchase of Switchover Media. During 2013, the UK business celebrated its best growth since 2005 and won Best Factual Channel two years running in the UK (for Discovery Channel). We also set up a joint ad sales house with Viacom International Media Networks in Benelux.

How important is localisation?

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

Localisation is hugely important, whether through dubbing library content into local language, creating specific local short-form content to sit along side library programming, territory focused acquisitions or through original programming with locally discovered talent. As the global leading broadcaster for lifestyle programming, we have seen first hand how popular our library content is across the globe, but our ambition is always to bring a global programme and give it a local feel.

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global 

We have quite a few feeds tailored to our local markets and we’ll continue to do that. In Latin America we are customised in Spanish with programming picked or sourced from the region. Likewise, we have added Arabic to our bouquet of languages. It is not only about finding original AMC Networks content that will resonate but it’s also about reaching out to find other original content. We are buying a bunch of films direct from Sundance and we’ll have them on air by May around the world, and we also try to find local films for each market.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

We’ve been very bullish in developing local versions of our hit US franchises as well as funding unique local programming events and series that can travel across our portfolio. Along these lines, in 2014, I am looking forward to seeing: Pawn Stars UK and World Wars, our first international co-production, on History UK;  the tentpole doc event, Mandela on History in South Africa; and  the ‘gear-head’ series, Rust ‘N Roll from History Germany, among others.

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

Discovery has an average of eight channels in more than 220 countries across the globe.  These channels are populated with a pipeline of strong global content from Discovery’s US networks, international content from Julian Bellamy’s team in London and strategic local commissions and acquisitions. In western Europe this mix works very well across our markets and has been a very successful model for us. This amazing content has allowed us to create a bouquet of channels that target a myriad of audiences with different interests, at different life stages, and different backgrounds. This is a major strength. We can provide affiliates with content that satisfies their audiences and deliver ratings that attract advertisers. Our channels are successfully localised by talented, local leadership teams in our offices, which mean we are able to embrace cultural differences and move quickly on new opportunities. Last year In Italy we bought the rights to talent show Amici that is currently doing incredible ratings on our entertainment channel Real Time, whilst in Spain, local production El Mago Pop, a magic show, is a big ratings hit as is the show Cougar Love in Benelux.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

It continues to be an important part of our strategy. Local commissioning will continue in South Africa and we are looking at opportunities to expand this out to Poland.

Laurent Dumeau, Trace Sport Stars

The need and the level of localisation varies. Trace Urban is an international concept that resonates well in all markets, its strength is the low level of localisation. We deliver the best international Urban music.  Trace Africa, and Trace Tropical are by definition more localised. Trace Sport Stars works well as an international concept. However, the channel works even better when mixing international and local sport celebrities. We are planning to launch several fully localised versions of Trace Sport Stars in several key markets in 2014. These localised versions will be managed by local partners that will invest in the concept.

What digital service do you think adds most value?

Laurent Dumeau, Trace Sport Stars

MyTrace and Trace Stars are two exciting digital services that deliver great value to operators and to our channels as they engage viewers direct. They are also great recruitment tools as they bring the Trace experience to a new audience.

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

It’s impossible to single out one device in such diverse markets. We will continue to focus on fantastic content that entertains, engages and enlightens and is available where the audience wants it and work closely with our partners to make sure we address audience needs.

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

Our digital offering is vast and rich. Audiences can deep dive into programmes, trends, cuisines and seasons, all of which complement our on air scheduling. We see a distinct relationship between TV and digital services, each offering a gateway into Scripps brands and we see the value of treating these platforms equally rather than prioritising one over the other. Being a provider of specialist channels means providing our viewers with genre focused entertainment or information on whatever device they wish to access it.  Therefore it is essential to be proficient on any form of digital access.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

I think the ability to use a platform VOD service to preview upcoming series before the channel premieres on the platform is a great non-linear service. It’s a ‘reward’ for super fans that want to see the show – and equally important – allows new viewers to discover the series, and the channel. We recently provided viewers in the UK with such a preview of the show Witches of East End. We received positive feedback from our viewers along with fantastic ratings for the series itself on Lifetime.

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global

We strongly believe that the way TV is moving means there is no compromising on quality. HD and Surround Sound are great. You can watch high-quality content on an iPad and it is visually immersive. There is a demand for quality because there are so many choices. You have content from the internet and so many different sources of content that the only way to break through is to deliver something unique that is high quality and has a great brand. Our idea is to be on any platform as long as it is sensible and respects our client base, so authentication is important to us. We want to offer on-demand, mobility and social media. We have a lot of local social media sites and those are interactive and helpful in creating a new way for people to watch TV.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

Catch up is the killer app, followed by TV Everywhere and then second screen.

If you were to create a new channel, what would it be?

Laurent Dumeau, Trace Sport Stars

Short term, we are focusing on making our existing channels better and better. If we were to add new channels in 2014, we would initially focus on localised versions of our existing brands, particularly Trace Sport Stars.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

We have recently announced three new global consumer brands from BBC Worldwide which we will be taking to the marketplace – BBC Earth, BBC Brit and BBC First. All three brands build on the BBC’s first-class reputation and have huge customer appeal.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

A+E Networks has been working on this very question over the past year or so and the answer is FYI – a completely new take on a “lifestyle channel” that we believe will fill a conspicuous gap in a growing demographic ignored, if not put-off by, traditional, prescriptive “how-to” channels. Simply put, it’s a linear television destination for a younger, more affluent consumer of non-linear content on cooking, design, renovation, fashion and relationships. The content is presented in a unique channel environment that matches the contemporary notion of “life improvised”.  Stay-tuned for that.

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

Over the last two years we have focused on rolling out TLC and ID across Western Europe and are shortly launching TLC in Germany as a second flagship brand. In terms of new channel brands, you’ll have to watch this space!

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

We already have three very successful channel brands that broadcast across EMEA, and ten channel brands that are all category leaders in the US. That said, I would love to further develop our expertise in home and garden programming to continue alongside our power brands in the international market place.

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global

I like what we are doing now. Sundance has given us a chance to develop something that is sustainable in the future. We are relatively new to the game and our offer is on the cutting edge. In terms of new services we just acquired Chellomedia, so we’ll have a lot of new services going forwards.

What current show are you most proud of?

Laurent Dumeau, Trace Sport Stars

On Trace Sport Stars, the show Star Block Work Out. It’s an extremely exciting and previously unseen, exclusive format to Trace Sport stars, focusing on great values such as “going beyond your limit” and combining sport and contemporary music it is highly reflective of the Trace brand. The show can also be localised in key territories to feature local sports and entertainment celebrities. On Trace Urban, the Trace Urban Music Awards: what’s more exciting than a live four hour show listing and watching your favourite music artists?

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global 

Every show is a labour of love, but I love Rectify and that we were able to secure the rights to it all across Europe and Latin America. I am also a big Breaking Bad fan. There was a question raised when we launched it in Asia in the first window of whether it was too violent, but we shouldn’t underestimate audiences. It has had a lot of great feedback. The other thing is I love is getting into festivals and buying content exclusively and then getting it on air before it has even been in a theatre. We have some more great stuff on the way that you will be hearing more about.

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

As a passionate rugby fan, securing the free to air rights to broadcast the RBS Six Nations tournament in Italy on DMAX is a personal highlight. It exemplifies our ambition to innovate and play in new spaces. DMAX’s live coverage featured two highly experienced commentators Vittorio Munari and Antonio Raimondi, and the games are top and tailed by the Rugby Social Club, a live studio broadcast which is hosted by Daniele Piervincenzi.  The DMAX website includes live streaming games, which can also be viewed on smartphones and tablets, as well as offering a range of innovative content all designed to stimulate engagement with the DMAX community.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

Pawn Stars UK. It’s been a great success both on History in the UK and across our History channels globally from Australia to Mexico and Italy to India. With our partners Leftfield Pictures, we worked incredibly hard to achieve the right cast and location, and build the dynamic of the show to match the pace and entertainment of Pawn Stars – with a ton of local information packed in!

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

We recently launched a brand new original commission for the Travel Channel that I’m particularly proud of. Jonathan Phang’s Gourmet Trains is a fantastic and vibrant programme that delivers both great food and travel content in one compelling show.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

It’s difficult to narrow it down to one show given the breadth of content that we showcase. Winners for us have been Sherlock, Come Dine With Me, Top Gear and Sarah and Duck.

What show on another network would you like to have?

Dee Forbes, Discovery Networks Western Europe

Educating Yorkshire.

Ian McDonough, BBC Worldwide

I’m a huge fan of Breaking Bad. The originality of the storytelling was exceptional and the finale was one of the biggest TV moments of last year.

Nick Thorogood, Scripps Networks Interactive

Come Dine With Me. This show is a fabulous mix of food, personalities and a peek at people’s homes in easy to view programmes. The fact that all three are important in the mix is a testament to the production values. Quite often the quality of the food isn’t that good but it takes nothing away from the viewing experience.

Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global 

I am a big Homeland fan. It is a riveting show and they have done an amazing job with it.

Dean Possenniskie, A+E Networks

Homeland on Channel 4 for Lifetime UK.

Most Recent