05/02/23: Riding the Wave of Change: A+E Networks Across TVE and Beyond

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM A+E NETWORKS
 

Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read
Tuesday May 2, 2023

Riding the Wave of Change: A+E Networks Across TVE and Beyond

By E.B. Moss

There are programming genres that have been steady consumer favorites for a decade plus, such as home improvement and “true crime.” Whether that content is on a “plus” or a Pluto is irrelevant to the fan, who will seek and consume it when and where it’s most convenient. A+E Networks, home to franchises like Home.Made.Nation, is not only making sure their content is findable on TV Everywhere (TVE), but enabling advertisers to reach those fans with precision and even some guaranteed outcomes. Stacie Danzis, A+E Networks Senior Vice President of Digital Ad Sales, is helping see to that.

Danzis, who is responsible for the network’s digital revenue, monetization strategy and advisory services, observes that, “As the industry is moving and tides are changing, we are changing the direction of our ship, and following eyeballs.” Those “eyeballs,” she notes, are moving rapidly – from an 80/20 percent split of linear viewing to digital, to 70/30 in the past two years. To A+E Networks, however, it all just adds up to “television.”

Rowing together as a company towards a holistic view of video is encouraged by Ad Sales President Peter Olsen who says, We believe a multi-platform strategy rooted in this sight, sound and motion thing we call television, wherever it’s seen, is the best way to captivate people, build businesses and brand trust.”

Given that TVE currently makes up 34% of A+E Networks consumption across screens (based on P2+), Danzis explains how the organization is moving forward with “television” and their bespoke version of it everywhere: “Some of our competitors look at the viewing shift as a ‘challenge’, and are leaning into creating their own DTC services. We’ve also seen many falter with getting enough content to keep people interested. And we know people have enough money for only so many subscriptions. So, for us, while we have some SVOD services like Lifetime Movie Club, we’ve really decided to do something different and not put all our eggs in one basket.”

Their multiple baskets equate to about five different buckets of focus: from embracing FAST channels to more subscription-free content ‘in front of the wall’, from a greater consumer marketing push towards their owned and operated (O&O) channels and partner sites so fans can find their treasured shows, to creating more digital-exclusive content. And they are filling each of those buckets with the fan-favorite genres that built A+E’s reputation, like the historical content and documentaries of The HISTORY Channel, the pop culture and true crime of A&E, and the lifestyle content including, of course, home improvement, that lives across their portfolio.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM A+E NETWORKS

Capturing Surfers and Bringing them Home

Danzis offers an explanation about how one of their tactics – licensing a sampling of their content to places like Paramount+ and other services – “might scare some other programmers,” but fulfills their awareness objective: “We look at it as a flywheel effect. A good example is offering a season of Alone – the wilderness competition show from HISTORY – on Netflix. People really identified with the survivalist and contextual relevance of it, particularly during the height of the pandemic. And it stayed in their top ten for 26 weeks. That drove fans to seek other additional Alone content and come to ‘the mothership’ [A+E O&O channels and platforms]. So, even though the places where we have the most sales rights are the priority, we find having that marketing strategy has been important and a good thing for us.”

And for the ad sales team, it all adds up to being able to double down on their reputation of super-serving customers, with greater supply and flexibility.

Danzis reveals more about how the A+E distribution strategy feeds into their sales strategy of flexibility: “Our decision to take our content everywhere possible for the most people to be able to discover it, means a lot of endpoints. So, while our main focus is, obviously, to put our premium content on our O&O apps and services, we make sure that we’re joining forces with MVPDs, virtual MVPDs, AVOD services, and also building out FAST, social and audio. Each platform, or endpoint, brings in different audiences, whether it’s cable subscribers, cord cutters or cord nevers, for a wide array of kinds of consumption and even diverse age groups, and with remarkably little duplication.”

That in turn, builds the incentive for the advertiser to be everywhere with them as well, across all “television” options – AKA linear and digital video.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM A+E NETWORKS

Filling Demand with Quality Supply

For now, at least, there are many large streaming services, but contraction looms. A+E’s approach has been good for driving their revenue in the near term but anticipates even more growth as the tide continues to turn. As such, “TV Everywhere 2.0 is our number one mission,” says Danzis, “and our is goal to bring our advertisers and our partners more supply.”

The organization has found ways to offer that additional supply by capitalizing on those preferred genres and top-performing programs, and generating innovative new form factors, such as digital exclusives from shows like Married At First Sight, or Curse of Oak Island. This secondary, or digital-only, content lives across their channels in multiple ways with multiple benefits:

“First,” explains Danzis, “it creates an amazing promotional opportunity on MVPDs: We’ll stitch these digital exclusive content pieces to the end of a VOD viewing experience so people can see our brands front and center and know that we offer more.”

Using the Alone example, they assembled “Shelter From The Storm,” based on how each contestant had to build their own shelter, “which,” Danzis points out, “if you’re living out in nature for multiple weeks is going to be very important to you! This added content shows how the cast succeeded – or didn’t, their dos and don’ts, and so forth. Or, a Married at First Sight relationship rewind, where we have the experts dig into the relationships… They’re things our audience really loves to see, because it’s not what they get in the linear offering.”

In addition, A+E will put it online in sponsored video playlist form, and on their O&Os, but also via partners like Hulu as well. To further maximize exposure and alignment opportunities, Danzis says they’ll then “slice and dice and tease on our social opportunities as well. It’s just a fun way of offering something more than the viewers – or advertisers – are getting on air.” Sponsors are given exclusive ad presence within series for a true ownership feel, promoted in newsletters, promo tiles, the brand show page and even social cutdowns.

This approach has enabled a programming flywheel, too. For example, YouTube sensation Sohla has been delighting consumers by tracing food back to its origins. Now Recipes with Sohla will run on one of the new A+E FAST channels, 4UV, focused on diverse voices, then find an additional home on A&E while enjoying a digital presence, too.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM A+E NETWORKS

Multiple Endpoints, Multiple Solutions for Advertisers

The net net of the network effort has been greater value for advertisers. Multiple endpoints has been an opportunity to test and iterate additional sponsorable elements – making things like curtain raisers and brought to you by messaging, familiar to buyers and linear audiences, available digitally, too. This has also enabled multiple solutions, which the A+E sales team has been groomed to generate. “We can answer top, middle and lower funnel all through digital; it just depends on what purchase path or what KPI that advertiser is really looking to do.”

Working in tandem the Precision + Performance philosophy of drilling down to client objectives, the sales crew can call on anything from their Multi-Viewing Precision option, which looks at linear audience and the digital audience and recommends the “hardest working” custom bundles of programming, to linear and digital optimization from a Performance perspective. “We always aim for being flexible from a purchase path standpoint and asking the right questions of the client ensures we understand what they’re looking for.”

No Reservations: A+E’s Unified Approach to Programmatic

Along with the aforementioned anticipation of supply issues, an equal demand for customer service will be a point of differentiation, and A+E has long made that their calling card. That even applies when automation is part of the plan. “I feel like we’ve always had a wonderful approach to programmatic and it’s thriving for us,” Danzis asserts. “Through integrations with premium OTT tech partners, we’re really confident that we can provide brand safe, flexible solutions – from managing frequency on the backend or targeting specific audiences, testing creative strategies or simply find scale without guarantees. And the thing is, since we’re SSP-agnostic, our private marketplace offers programmatic guaranteed, and biddable guaranteed solutions via the agency’s choice of SSP.”

Their approach to programmatic, Danzis notes, is also aligned with their ever-present goal of a flexible purchase path. “While some say, ‘we’re going to reserve this inventory, set it aside, and only use certain parts,’ we’re not like that: we don’t set aside. It’s very important for us to make sure that we can use our entire portfolio, so everything goes. We have a unified yield approach through FreeWheel, our ad server, and we want to make sure that everything has a fair shake programmatically when there’s a guarantee involved, too.”

Danzis sums up the state of the solution-based sales team by saying, “Whether it be completely broad-based or hyper-targeting programmatically, we’re looking at things in different buckets this year so we can create the right solutions for people. So, we hope that people look at A+E Networks as something that’s not only premium but that can help balance those increasing streaming prices, as we lean into supply, flexible solutions, and efficiencies in the marketplace.”

Cynopsis Team

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director
@Lynn_Leahey

Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Robbie Caploe
VP/Group Publisher
@robertacaploe

Executive Director of Sales
Albert Nassour
917-545-3129
Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
John Cox

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