USA anticipates Michael Jackson’s arrival

Patrick Vien, president of emerging networks for USA Cable, weighs in on his new boss, former CEO of the U.K.'s Channel 4 and now head of USA Entertainment.
July 26, 2001

The decision by Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of USA Networks, to name Channel 4 top gun Michael Jackson president of USA Entertainment caught many by surprise. But, not Patrick Vien, USA Cable’s president of emerging networks. Says Vien, ‘He has the most important media job – from a content standpoint – in all of England, and has embraced U.S. television and media programming probably more than any other important European media executive. Had it been someone else from across the pond, it might have been a surprise, but because it’s Michael it really wasn’t.’

As head of USA Entertainment, a newly created post, Jackson will oversee Studios USA, USA Films and USA Cable (which includes new nets Trio, Crime and Newsworld International). He is also charged with building bridges between USA Entertainment and the company’s other key area, the Interactive Group. Jackson reports directly to Diller.

Jackson’s track record of hits at C4, including Big Brother and 1900 House, means he will face high expectations, particularly with the emerging networks. Says Vien, ‘Channel 4 has this unique position in the market as completely commercially available to consumers but with a fabric of intelligence to it. And in so far as we’re building a popular arts channel [Trio] and a sister non-fiction service in Newsworld, that’s precisely what we’ve wanted to do.’ Jackson’s background in arts and music – he headed up the BBC’s arts and music department before going on to head up first BBC2 and later BBC1 – is an added bonus. ‘He’s got specific experience in the general arts and entertainment category that will make him an enthusiastic contributor.’

Despite Jackson’s experience, Vien hopes he’ll bring with him an entirely new approach: ‘I think that what made Channel 4 successful is not just a formula that you can replicate in the United States…they are indeed different cultures.’

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.