A Passion for Global GrowthSean Cohan has more than doubled A+E’s portfolio of international channels 6/27/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
When Steve Ronson, A+E Networks executive vice president
for enterprises, first met Sean Cohan in 2004, he remembers
being immediately impressed with Cohan’s intensity, energy
and passion for the business.
“I knew I wanted to hire him after the first
60 seconds,” Ronson recalls, even though “he
came with virtually no international experience….
He was very sharp, and I felt he could
help me develop that business.”
Those instincts quickly proved correct.
After being hired in 2004 for international
business development, Cohan proved to be a
quick study of global markets, spearheading
a number of new channel launches and businesses.
In 2007, he was put in charge of all
of A+E’s international channels, program sales
and digital efforts.
“In the last seven years, Sean has really
helped supercharge our international business,
which is critical to the growth of the
company,” notes Ronson.
Since 2006, the division has launched 25
channels; sold content to more than 300 broadcasters
globally; forged more than 75 digital
partnerships around the globe; dramatically
expanded its HD channels; launched its fi rst
international mobile, broadband and VOD services;
and put together a number of key joint
ventures for channel launches in India, Southeast
Asia and German-speaking Europe.
Currently, the company has 46 channels internationally,
with channels and programming
blocks available in more than 150 territories
reaching 250 million homes.
A+E also assembled an international team of
executives that both Ronson and Cohan stress
has played a key role in the division’s growth.
“We’ve bolstered our team with very strong
local talent and that has been very important
in our success,” Cohan notes.
While Cohan admits his move into international
media wasn’t an early career objective,
his own background as well as the energy and
passion he brings to his work have been crucial
to the division’s success, Ronson says.
After getting his undergraduate degree from
Harvard, Cohan decided to pursue a career in
media and entertainment, but ended up joining
A.T. Kearney as a business analyst to hone
his basic skills.
His next job, at NBC, confirmed his desire
to make a career in media. But after going
back to school to get his MBA, he decided to
join the investment bank Morgan Stanley. “I
felt that M&A was such an important part of
the media business,” he says.
This combination of management, ad sales
and deal making would prove particularly
helpful on the international side of A+E,
which has launched international channels in
joint ventures with local partners as a way of
localizing its channels and reducing risks.
One early focus at A+E was to both expand
the reach of its channels into newer territories
and increase the number of channels in each
market. “Since 2006, we’ve effectively doubled
the channel portfolio,” Cohan notes.
Cohan’s division has also worked to take advantage
of the fact that the company has invested
in digital rights to its programming and
has started producing all its content in HD to
expand its digital efforts and HD channels.
A+E currently offers high-definition channels—
along with HD content—in the U.K.,
Scandinavia, Benelux, Germany, Eastern Europe,
Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. More
launches are expected as operators are only
now beginning to launch HD services in
many international markets, providing A+E
with another way to expand its bouquets of
channels in many markets.
Localization is another cornerstone of the division’s
strategy. “Our brands—History [Channel],
Bio, Crime [& Investigation Network]—
are by definition very straightforward, which
is a real advantage,” Cohan notes. “But they
also cry out for localization. We don’t want to
be viewed as that international channel talking
about someone else’s history, and we’ve gone
out of our way from the beginning to work
with local partners to make sure we have locally
acquired or produced content.”
Currently, A+E’s biggest international brands
are History, Bio and Crime & Investigation
Network. They have also launched Military
History in some markets, A&E in Latin America
and Canada and are eyeing the possibility
of expanding Lifetime in international markets.
“We think there is a very strong women’s
market out there for Lifetime,” Cohan notes.
Such launches will be increasingly important
to A+E networks’ future.
“While A+E is doing very, very well domestically,
the reality is that the domestic environment
is growing but growing as a mature business,”
Cohan says. “You can contrast that with
international, where there are more things to
worry about—whether regulatory, or geopolitical—
but the underlying fundamentals are very
strong. Every morning you wake up and there
are a lot more pay TV subs.”
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