‘We’re maturing as a business,’ notes Steven Ronson, EVP of enterprises at AETN, and it’s hard to disagree. No longer just arts, no longer just American, AETN has become an international multimedia power in the last few years.
Announcements this week only underline that, with the net announcing HD rollouts of Crime & Investigation and The Biography Channel into the UK and Ireland on November 5, and several VOD and mobile agreements across Asia.
Consider that AETN has launched 17 new broadcast outlets since 2007, and you begin to understand the expansionist drive motivating the company.
Although you’d have to think the company is already in most of the economically viable territories of the world, Ronson notes that there is still plenty of room for growth. Part of the MO now is to expand the bouquet of channels and partnerships in territories it already exists in, expand into new territories (China and Russia, for example), and continue to package shows for territories where channels are yet to exist.
Ronson says international has already begun to outstrip the US as the engine of the company, and that it is likely to continue to grow as a total percentage. AETN helps ensure that pick-up by customizing shows, with 25% to 40% of content become local over time after launch.
Digital media is an obvious growth area as well. While visits spike on A&E when content revolves around talent, the shows and characters, for History and Biography the contents looks to a ‘broader digital canvas.’
For example, look for History to launch a significantly up-gunned platform in 2009, with a wider appeal to a non-broadcast audience – students for example. The question for History, says Ronson, is ‘how do you engage with history daily?’ Where is the ‘a-ha factor’ that Ronson looks for to ensure appeal, whether it is online or on a linear outlet.
History has already partnered with such luminaries as the Library of Congress to expand its offerings and its usefulness, but look for possible outreach to thought leaders in the 25-to-49 demo, who will help wrangle those students and other members of the digital generation.
And what of the digitally challenged older demo that makes up much of AETN’s current demo? Ronson says the key is to make interfaces and applications as user-friendly and easy to use as possible. Like many others, he points to Apple as a company that knows how to talk across the generation gap.