03/08/23: A+E Networks: Doing What’s Best for the Business


Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday March 8, 2023

A+E Networks Makes a Difference with Quality Content, Strong Company Culture and Effective Counting

The more things change (for others) in the media landscape the more things stay the same at A+E Networks, to its business advantage. As Ad Sales President Peter Olsen described it, “Our core principle has always been just to do what’s best for the business, and our business fundamentals have never waned. We do operate differently and that’s part of the value equation.”

Part of the difference he is referring to comes from the belief of recent years that the FAANG companies would be unbeatable in the streaming wars, battling for subscribers by spending heavily on content. Now the media industry is questioning that new world order, while A+E Networks’ steady stream of diverse offerings and good business practices has earned yardage for the global entertainment company.

A second differentiator is A+E Networks’ ability to create recognizable programs – delivered across all platforms – that originate from a portfolio of trusted brand homes that includes A&E®, The HISTORY® Channel, Lifetime®, LMN™, FYI,™ and Vice TV. For example, the 20+ seasons of “Ancient Aliens” is almost tied with the tenure of HISTORY® Channel, or thanks to its 300+ episodes, “Storage Wars” is almost as familiar as the A&E name itself.

Through it all, as with all successful brands, it starts with making a meaningful difference at work, with a strong and consistent company culture that can attract and retain top talent in sales and in content development.


Olsen explains all three differentiators and how they ultimately drive business for A+E Networks and success for their partners:


A+E Networks is not out to defang their competitors or try to compete on scale, but to prevail by operating differently. The company has aimed for diversity, equity and inclusion before its acronym was part of the zeitgeist. “We wholeheartedly believe that companies with better culture perform better,” Olsen states. “And we’re evidence of that since we’re one of the few media companies to have grown in profit in the last four or five years.”

Further proof that “culture really, really does matter,” adds Olsen, is that they were recently recognized by Newsweek, for the second year in a row, as one of the 100 Most Loved Workplaces in America and this year also recognized as one of America’s Greatest Workplaces for Diversity. “If you treat people right and you put culture first, and mean it, it actually makes people happier and thus more productive. That also helps us recruit and retain talent.”

Quality over Quantity

A+E Network’s culture and “be inclusive” motto has attracted employees, but also eyeballs and advertisers. Olsen explains it this way: “When employees feel like their voice matters, they’re more in. But brands want inclusivity in their storytelling because consumers now have more of a voice and want to be heard, too. They want to relate to companies, brands, and shows that speak to them individually. So, from our President on down, we must be real and inclusive in our storytelling, our culture, in everything that we do. It’s what separates us as a company.”

Emblematic of being “real”, the head of sales candidly admits that “We’re not a must, must, must buy. If you don’t buy us, the world doesn’t end. So, instead of behaving like a ‘sales force’, we consider ourselves a ‘customer service organization’. And we encourage our team to make themselves a trusted brand in a way, too. We focus on providing value and being really consultative in our approach. You treat people the right way. You listen more than you talk. A rating is a rating but what clients want are solutions.”


Qualified Content

While the company has three primary areas of focus – premium content that is contextually relevant to advertisers, comprehensive and effective audience discovery, and targeting solutions and creative partnership solutions that work – Olsen says producing diverse and engaging content is paramount to the success of the company. And, despite the cutbacks made by some of their competitors, A+E Networks “believes in content as an engine” and has committed to producing an impressive 2500 hours of content next year, the most significant output they’ve ever produced.

“We think popular and premium content will always find a place in the distribution ecosystem,” notes Olsen. They’re working with three in-house studios and have investments in companies like Range Media and Propagate that give them access to unparalleled talent. That ties back, again, to offering a broader pool of storytellers, who can bring fresh and unique ideas to the table.

While they’re being prudent in their content choices despite the record output, they’re capitalizing on another difference: “We’ve always prided ourselves on being a company that can produce content cost-effectively,” said Olsen. “It’s content that can be seen multiple times,” he adds, citing numerous “workhorses” – from American Pickers to Pawn Stars, which are “repeatable, efficiently produced shows.” Thus A+E Networks is now in the enviable position of having a solid business extension of producing for others, as well. “Our production mindset has us poised to provide for our own brands as well as the industry at-large because, given the industry pressure, we do something that only a few others can do, which is to produce really good content for an efficient price.”


Quality Rises to the Top (of Awareness)

Their formula for programming success is timely as the entertainment industry becomes increasingly fragmented. The company has doubled down on certain “passion areas” that they believe will continue to matter to both viewers and advertisers, leaning heavily into lifestyle blocks which are now bona fide brands, like Home.Made.Nation, and their best-in-class justice programming. Extensions, such as award-winning podcasts, continue the stories for fans and grow audiences. That content is also parsed into appropriate sponsor verticals, like “automotive endemic programming.”

To drive discoverability and consumption further, A+E Networks is ensuring their content is widely accessible – and sponsorable – making it available on the most ad-supported platforms possible, whether on their traditional networks or on their industry-leading FAST channels. “We think this is content that will continue to have a home on people’s televisions, wherever and however they see it, for years. And for advertisers, a multi-platform strategy – rooted in television – is the best way to build brand trust, captivate people and grow business.”

Though the very definition of television is changing, acknowledges Olsen, at the end of the day, something you watch that’s video is a form of television, complete with “the power of sight, sound, and motion. Marketers are storytelling with their creative, too. We just do our best with our partnerships team and our targeting solutions to make that as effective as we can make it. It may be that an advertiser partners with us by genre, brand, show or audience segment, with 20 seconds or two-minute creative solutions, or even a full two hours of original, custom content.”

“Whatever the solution we develop we deliver that creative messaging to the audiences who are finding our diverse, reliable shows everywhere. All that,” he stresses, “is what makes television advertising creative unparalleled in terms of actually making someone love your brand, want to partner with your brand. That’s really the mission.”


A+E Networks is also known for its branded divisions of “Performance” and “Precision” to deliver just what the names say for advertisers. To Olsen’s mind, what’s truly important is business building solutions. But Olsen’s trademark sincerity applies to his perspective on the industry’s measurement challenges:

“We must take a strong stance in the measurement and currency of audience engagement. Measuring each impression fairly is crucial to a smarter, sustainable future. That is why we are a part of the industry movement to bring consistent measurement against all content no matter where its viewed, no matter what the currency. We’re going to unwrap more of what we’re doing around measurement and audience targeting in the coming weeks.”

Net net, while the bigger players may slash and burn with algorithms, A+E Networks is betting, per Olsen, that “making good content is the new discoverability tool. And pairing that with good culture, listening to our customers, trying to solve their problems, and ultimately offering effective counting, that’s the output we want.”

And that is how a quality brand stands out in today’s marketplace.

Cynopsis Team

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director

Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Robbie Caploe
VP/Group Publisher

Executive Director of Sales
Albert Nassour
Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
John Cox


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