In advance of MIPTV, we spoke to Bruce Tuchman, president of AMC/Sundance Channel Global, to hear more about his future international plans for Sundance and WE tv.
Sundance is currently distributed in several European territories, as well as Canada and Asia; WE tv is distributed in markets within Asia. Are there other markets in which you’re actively looking to expand?
We look at the entire world as offering great potential, so there are no markets that we rule out per se. We’re always exploring opportunities and as you can see from even the last couple of months, we’ve made a lot of growth, added new countries, systems and partners. So we’re eager to continue our momentum all over the world.
Are you looking for more local production partners in the various markets for each network?
Sundance internationally is distinct and localized, or customized, for the markets that we reach. It’s not only the versioning, promos and interstitials, but we’re looking to craft schedules that resonate. Some of the commonalities that link the Sundance Channels around the world are, number one, they air great AMC original series. If you’re in a Sundance market internationally, you’re likely to run into one of our original series and that makes the channel quite compelling. But beyond that, we’re airing a lot of great independent films and other content acquired from sources in the U.S. and abroad. So there is quite a mixture on the film side, and we have acquired series from outside of the U.S.
Right now, [WE tv] is distributed in a number of markets in Asia, and it’s a wholly underserved niche of programming. Audiences are really liking what they’re seeing now, judging from what we’ve brought over from the U.S. – everything from My Fair Wedding to Braxton Family Values. It’s just been a couple of years for WE in the international market, but certainly we’re looking at local programming opportunities and getting our hands around the opportunities to do some original production.
What are the key challenges in rolling new brands out internationally? Is the global economic situation impacting expansion plans?
If you’ve been in the business long enough, we’ve been through it before. We’ve had the Asian economic crisis around the turn of the century, and the Latin American crisis in the late ’90s, and those were tougher.
You see these crises, but one of the things you don’t see as far as Pay TV is concerned is failure in the business, meaning you don’t see subscribers decreasing overall – they’re still increasing. What’s amazing about this industry is how durable and robust it is, and how it’s really one of the last things a consumer will want to part with once they have it. So I don’t see the economic situation as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity.
The challenge, I think, is that in a world where lots of channels have already launched, apart from perhaps the women’s demographic, we’re no longer in a world where there’s a want for quality programming. There is a lot of good programming out there and there’s limited capacity even in a digital environment, and there are transformations afoot – from the old analog, to modest digital, to robust digital environments. So the challenge for everyone is how do you adapt to that and find your space within it.
How big is the team coming to MIP?
It’s a tight-knit group – we have our distribution folks, [and] some of our operational folks who will be looking for acquisitions for both channels.
I’ll be coming at it now with a different company and a different perspective, but I’m already sensing a great receptivity to what we’re doing with Sundance and WE. We think this year is our time to really make a mark in the international arena.