A+E Networks’ Steve Ronson has his hands in a lot of pots. As EVP, Enterprises for A+E Networks, he oversees the International, Consumer Products, and Home Entertainment teams. He drives the company’s business development, focused on distribution in the U.S. and abroad.
In addition to program sales, his company sells channel bouquets all around the world.
We spoke to Ronson about his plans for NATPE, 2012 plans, and how A+E branded shows travel around the world.
VAI: What are some of your strategies for 2012?
On the international side, the big headline will be the expansion of the Lifetime channel outside the U.S. We’re aggressively moving to launch Lifetime channels in various regions. We’re already in 150 countries with History (our lead brand), Bio and Crime & Investigation, so it’s not necessarily about reaching out to new territories, but expanding the channel bouquet.
The major two territories where we’d like to expand to overall are France and Russia CIS (where the problem in the past has been about bandwidth). The other territories are usual suspects like China, where it’s still very difficult to launch channels. We’re in China with program sales, but not as a full channel.
In terms of international digital media, we’re looking into mobile and over-the-top services over the globe, but the majority of business is in program sales to terrestrials, channels, and VoD and catch-up service to other clients, be it cable, satellite or terrestrial channels. We’re in experimentation mode as web-connected television gets a little more concentration internationally.
In the consumer products arena we’ve had great success with fan gear – apparel, accessories, and more (especially for series Swamp People). We’ve done in excess of seven figures in revenue, largely from online commerce alone in the U.S. We think there’s a huge opportunity for fan gear in brick and mortar retailers.
VAI: Let’s talk about NATPE.
Miami in January is not bad. When Rick [Feldman, NATPE’s CEO] asked me if he should move NATPE to Miami, I said absolutely. I think when it was in Vegas it was being overshadowed by [Consumer Electronic Show] CES. Now it’s better positioned in Miami. The Latin community has adopted it as their market, and it’s a great landing point for European and Asian clients. It’s easy and attractive to get to in January.
I think it’ll be even stronger this year than last.
What are your international sales plans for NATPE?
The focus is on program sales, specifically on Latin America, obviously. But we service all of our clients there. The focus in terms of product is Superhumans from History IRT Deadliest Roads, and a new special called Raising the Titanic, which is available in 2D and HD. We also have a show called American Hoggers and crime series Bordertown: Laredo. That’s all in addition to a 9,000-hour catalog for clients.
VAI: With so many hours of programming, how do you market them to clients around the world?
I think we’ve done a good job of offering a catalog approach to clients. Clients can access a web portal with all the catalog content broken out into different. We also have a strong sales team in Europe, Asia and the U.S. We have some of the best of the best working for us.
VAI: Do you have representatives from all your teams at NATPE?
Canada and Latin America primarily. The European team won’t be there, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have appointments with European clients. The European team meets with clients at DISCOP Istanbul a few weeks later and NATPE Budapest [in June].
VAI: Can you explain the journey of a series after its launched on U.S. television?
For our more widely distributed brands – History, Bio and Crime and Investigation — original hours from the U.S. nets find their way to international channels in the first window 99 percent of the time.
Then we window that content, as well as the catalog content, developing a package for the client in each territory.
Our networks around the world will get the first window when it comes to the History, Crime and Investigation and Bio brands. For Lifetime content, we have no channels yet, so the first window goes to terrestrial channels. As we launch the Lifetime channels, we’ll follow the History, Crime & Investigation and Bio format.
The A&E channels only in the U.S., Canada and Latin America, so a lot of the A & E content that’s not used on Bio and Crime & Investigation are available for terrestrial.
Both channels and program sales clients are really important to us. The best part is that both businesses are under one roof, so we do have this great sense of balance, being able to maximize the content.
How long after a U.S. show premieres do you start selling it internationally?
We don’t have a built-in waiting period. In an ideal world, our content would air day-and-date on our international channels, or at least close. We do that in major tentpoles. But there really isn’t a formula. We understand that our clients appreciate fresh content.