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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

A+E Global Content Sales

Programming Profile

A+E Global Content Sales offers fresh content solutions in these unprecedented times

16-04-2020

Clients missing live sports and original production can lean on A+E Global Content Sales’ catalogue of fresh, first-run content across scripted, unscripted, reality, TV movies and formats. Here, we explore the distributor’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist.

 

Global media group A+E Networks is approaching the coronavirus crisis wearing many hats – that of a broadcaster and commissioner, a producer with its own studio division and a distributor of premium content.

 

This gives the company an all-round view of the situation, with its strong portfolio of brands in the US and around the world, and a robust content sales business. They are indeed finding that clients are hungry for content at a time when original productions are on hold the world over. A+E has a broad set of first-run series currently available; and a deep catalogue of some 40,000 hours of content, which contains many hit franchises and TV movies, giving them the ability to satisfy the needs of its channel partners and clients worldwide.

 

The obvious lesson so far for Patrick Vien, Group Managing Director of international for A+E Networks, is that “viewers want content, and lots of it” during lockdowns that leave them stuck at home.

 

Vien
Patrick Vien, A+E Networks

“It’s challenging to summarise the ratings of 200 countries into averages but what we’re seeing in the US is similar around the world,” he says. “Total TV viewing is up 12% in prime and 17% in total day over the past three weeks.

 

“Our own networks are an interesting barometer reflecting the strength of our shows. In the past three weeks we’ve outpaced ad-supported cable year-on-year in primetime and total day. The industry as a whole is down by 1%, even including the increased Covid-19 viewing, but A+E Networks is up 5% across its brands.”

 

Vien agrees with the commonly held industry notion that it is a very good time to be a distributor. Channels have lost a summer of live sport, which usually dominates schedules, and can’t get audiences together in studios for the big Saturday night staples, leaving meaningful amounts of time to fill at short notice.

 

“They’ve also lost their own original productions they were expecting to come in, both third-party content and series they produce in-house,” Vien says. “Absolutely, yes, it’s a good time to be a distributor of proven and coveted shows.”

 

But the situation is more nuanced than that. Although able to provide proven hits and content packages and themes from its deep library of content, A+E’s spring catalogue importantly includes 400 hours currently available of first runs, which could be gold dust to networks that have lost sport, live events and originals.

Project Blue Book
Project Blue Book

 

“We are in a strong position because of a high volume of very successful unscripted franchises, but it’s not just about volume, it’s about how much is first-run and how much is right in tonality for our times,” Vien says.

 

First-run projects include legal reality series Court Cam, the number one new cable show of the fourth quarter 2019; unscripted gameshow Top Dog, which pairs highly skilled dogs with their owners and was recently sold into the UK and Ireland; and a premium scripted line-up that includes Miss Scarlet and the Duke, the company’s first Spanish-language series Hernan, the second season of Project Blue Book and A+E Networks’ latest megadoc Washington.

Surviving R. Kelly
Surviving R. Kelly

 

Surviving R. Kelly is available as finished tape now and the follow-up, Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, is coming down the pipe for later this year. Damian Lewis: Spy Wars, which is finding audiences worldwide, is also available as part of a premium factual offering. And there’s a fascinating project, Shadows of Hiroshima, which explores the reality of nuclear warfare from the perspective of survivors and participants. The programme uses over 20 hours of newly declassified US and Japanese archives and interviews with people who have never spoken about the subject on camera before.

 

On the scripted side, Vien believes Miss Scarlet and the Duke, an international coproduction that will premiere on PBS’s Masterpiece in the US this fall, speaks exactly to what buyers are looking for at this time, following its recent smash bow in the UK on UKTV-owned Alibi.

 

“It has a fantastic constellation of creative elements,” he says. “Firstly, a great female protagonist in Kate Phillips. Secondly, it’s a modern take on detective series with closed-ended episodes, and has a flirting ‘will they won’t they’ romantic relationship between the two leads. It’s beautifully shot, contemporary ‘escape TV’ but with that British flare that people worldwide enjoy watching.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Miss Scarlet and the Duke

 

“On Alibi, it’s the #1 show for 2020 and advanced that channel 20 positions in the rankings. It was also ranked the #4 show in all of pay TV in the UK. It’s a strong hit, a first-run show, it’s completed and available and that speaks to what clients need today: first-run shows they can air now.”

 

A+E Networks, one of the most prolific producers and distributors of TV movies in the world, also provides a catalogue of said TV movies totalling more than 520 titles that can be packaged up into themes and provided at high volume. The company’s US channel Lifetime has seen an uptick in viewing of this Saturday night staple and is keen to pass that boost on to other clients.

 

Court Cam
Court Cam

“Our TV movies are extremely reliable entertainment, the sort of lean-back, lighter fare that audiences are loving right now,” Vien says. “Premium in the way they are written and executed and with high calibre talent in front of and behind the camera.

 

“Our movies are resonating with a global audience. We find that by theming our movies or by finding creative, globally resonant ways to package them tied to, for example, holidays or major global events, we ultimately help our clients meet their scheduling needs.

 

“Three of the top 10 movie premieres across ad-supported cable in 2019 were part of our smash hit VC Andrews Movie Series, which will continue with another five-film series next year.”

 

In unscripted, Ancient Aliens, Swamp People and The UnXplained with William Shatner tick the three boxes Vien believes are important to buyers in the present crisis: lighter in tone but not in quality, new content that hasn’t been seen and available in volume.

 

A+E has been quick to connect with clients all over the world despite the cancellation of MipTV and other markets and is speaking to buyer contacts both old and new.

 

The UnXplained with William Shatner
The UnXplained with William Shatner

“The sports business could well provide some interesting new clients,” Vien says. “They are in need of content with no live action. We did a huge global event called The History of Football with a six-hour doc of the same title and another called Football’s Godfathers. We have other sports content for those clients who desperately need to fill air.

 

“This is an environment that has invited companies like ourselves that are rich in first-run to have broad conversations with our long-standing clients as well as new clients, since the rules of content needs have been revised very quickly. What people relied upon in the past has changed for them. We can introduce ourselves as a broad set of solutions no matter who you may be as you look to entertain audiences.”

 

60 Days In
60 Days In

Of course, analysis of the content industry and company strategies to navigate a situation that has been incredibly fast-moving is set against a global tragedy, with enormous loss of life and strain on emergency services and health systems. It’s a context Vien and A+E are acutely aware of, while at the same time pointing out how they can help our tiny corner of the world, in the media business.

 

“A lot of people are going through a lot of pain – personally and financially,” he says. “We’re in a position, content-wise, to find solutions to what we hope is a short-term problem for the global industry. But we’re absolutely sensitive to what people are going through as individuals and as companies. These are unprecedented times the world over.”



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