Magazine article Variety

U.S. Hunger Gains

Magazine article Variety

U.S. Hunger Gains

Article excerpt

Economic chaos on continent hasn't derailed American broadcasters' expansion efforts

LONDON

Europe is struggling with the currency crisis. Economies in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are reeling from massive deficits. But despite the turmoil, U.S. brands continue to launch pay channels on the continent and repackage existing ones.

"If you look at aggregate figures, TV subscriber numbers are not declining," says Bruce Tuchman, the former MGM and MTV executive who took over as prexy of AMC/Sundance's global channel business last fall. "My only regret is that had there not been an economic crisis, growth would have been stronger."

Sundance is a late comer to the European channel biz. It bowed its brand in Europe two years ago and is still to launch sister channel, WE tv, outside Asia. Its strategy involves securing distribution deals with cable and broadband operators in some of the smaller, less hyper-competitive European markets such as France, Spain and Benelux.

The web provides a mix of high-end shows, most notably "Mad Men," alongside independent movies and docus, all delivered by state-of-the-art technology.

"We came to this with no old-school analog legacy in terms of infrastructure," Tuchman says. "From day one, we were all an all-digital operation.

"But the real point of difference between us and the established incumbents is our non-mainstream content, We have the opportunity to offer something unique that doesn't revolve around blockbusters. With Sundance, there was a lot of pre-awareness of the brand."

It remains to be seen if Sundance will eventually target a big market like the U.K., where securing distribution is costly and not easily available.

"It is an issue to find the right distribution deal," says Tim Westcott, senior TV analyst at IHS Screen Digest.

And not just in the U.K. Disney XD and Disney Junior need broader distribution in France, according to TVicia Wilber, Disney chief marketing officer in Europe, the Middle East and Africa,

"Platforms like BSkyB in the U.K., Canal Sat in France and Sky Italia have a fairly full complement of channels, and most genres are well covered," Westcott says. "If you bring a new channel to one of these providers, you have to offer something completely new and distinctive."

Sony Pictures Television Networks recently announced it would launch its second branded channel in the U.K. The Sony Movie Channel will bow this spring, joining female-skewed Sony Entertainment Television, rolled out a year ago in Blighty, and Movies4Men and Men&Movies in the U. …

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