The New Europe Market (NEM), to be held June 10-13 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, brings together media professionals to discuss a wide variety of hot topics relevant to all aspects of the global media industry. The NEM 2014 Keynote Speaker will be Bruce Tuchman, president of the New York-based AMC/Sundance Channel Global, which is owned by AMC Networks.
In an exclusive preview, Tuchman discusses his strategy for launching international brands.
Question: What makes the AMC/Sundance brand internationally desirable?
Answer: Our mission is to carry on the cornerstone of the Sundance Film Festival, which is to bring unconventional, fresh, under viewed, underexposed content to places all over the world where this kind of content isn’t available in the mainstream media.
Likewise, the brand has a lot of content that comes from our parent company, AMC Networks, which has developed a reputation as producing high quality and original drama.
These two components are making us very desirable all over the world and have fueled our growth over the last five years, since we started launching channels internationally. We’re already up to 64 countries and territories that carry our brand.
Q: Is there something else that distinguishes AMC/Sundance from other high quality TV brands?
A: What distinguishes AMC/Sundance is that I am in my office looking at posters of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead — some of the most iconic and most beloved shows ever created.
Q: In your career you have launched a number of channels internationally. When launching a TV brand, do you have to customize that brand to each region or is good content universal?
A: At the end of the day, great content is universal. There is a market for global high quality content but there is also a market for local content that appeals to local niches that don’t necessarily require as much investment in production or quality.
Q: What is AMC’s approach to the European market, and how does its approach compare to other markets?
A: We’re trying to bring our brand and other products to as many markets as we can. I’ve already mentioned that we are in 64 countries across Europe, Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and North Africa. Our approach in Europe is similar to what we are doing everywhere else. We are trying to achieve two things: 1) We look at a market and we want to see that there is a proposition where we can reach people and be true to our mission of providing content not otherwise widely available in the market, and 2) Our business is a sensible economic plan that shows a return after a considerable investment – that is our approach in a nutshell.
Q: What trends are specific to the CEE region? How is AMC trying to tap into the CEE market?
A: All markets are unique, including the markets within the CEE region. We are seeing a lot of consolidation, in comparison to other markets that are already a lot more consolidated. You have the persistence of some tough economic times and a concern among incumbent pay-TV platforms regarding over-the-top media mobility and new viewer demands that will impact and change the market. These three trends are very critical across the region and are playing out as we speak.
Despite consolidation and the tough economic conditions in the market, we offer a very compelling and reasonable price point that is also very friendly toward existing pay-TV providers.
Q: What potential do you see in the CEE region?
A: The region is huge in terms of population and is relatively underpenetrated when you compare it to other western markets or the U.S. The opportunity is enormous because we feel that penetration will continue to grow strongly. The CEE is “a must-be place” to have a business and invest in a business.
Q: Is AMC/Sundance looking to promote local programming?
A: The Sundance Channel produces content worldwide and there are four cornerstones to our content: 1) We do a lot of the original scripted dramas, but we also pick up dramas from other countries, 2) A big focus of ours is independent cinema that ranges from all years and all genres; we also typically pick films that are fresh from major film festivals, 3) Our content is handpicked and put on the air within weeks, and want to continue to further explore the world of cinema within each of our markets, 4) We are looking to get and we often acquire films from the markets that we broadcast in.
Q: What does the acquisition of U.K.-based Chellomedia mean to AMC/Sundance?
A: It means that we have upped our game globally and we now have a very large and significant platform to match what we have created in the U.S. We can create more scale, diversify revenue sources, create synergies across the board and through this acquisition we can get ourselves into places that we haven’t been present in before.
Q: Do you think non-linear distribution influences TV content quality? How has AMC adapted to these changes in viewer demands?
A: Before the era of digital, analog TV didn’t have the visual and sound quality that we have now. Nowadays, before you look at a script, you look at how something is supposed to strike you and you examine the texture and authenticity of a show. Through an HD broadcast, you can actually see the little mementoes on Don Draper’s desk. This kind of detail wasn’t even possible before digital much less before HD. Especially now, in the world of on-demand viewing, watching TV has become an immersive experience. The technology requires content providers to up their game to a level that hasn’t been prevalent before. And it’s not just the visual or the sound; the actual smartness of content has to match the smartness of the technology. As the technology continues to evolve, it gives consumers more and more choices and allows them to be more and more demanding about what they want to watch and when they want to watch — that has fundamentally changed the game.
Q: What potential do you see at NEM 2014?
A: The region you are covering is a region we want to grow more deeply in. Personally I am very passionate about the CEE region and have been involved in the region for over 20 years. Hopefully NEM will bring attention to the challenges and idiosyncrasies of the market and help all of us grow: operators, content providers, etc. Additionally, NEM gives us a good opportunity to reflect on what has happened and what can be done in the future.
Q: What TV show are you currently hooked on?
A: I am a big Walking Dead fan. I also have to say that Mad Men changed my life, probably because my father was in the ad sales business at that time and I was always fascinated by that era.