Cable Chiefs: Original Programming, Digital Presence Key in Evolving Landscape

AMC's Stillerman, MTV's Janollari, others discuss the demand for original content on multiple platforms in crowded entertainment space
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Where once was a television landscape dominated by two clear
competitors with leaders in broadcast and cable, there
is now is a crowded field populated by numerous other players such as
Netflix, YouTube and Hulu which have begun creating their own original content.
Added to that space – and complicating matters – is the increasing importance
of a strong, branded digital presence.

That changing digital world was at the forefront of cable
executives' minds at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society's Newsmaker
Luncheon: Cable Programming Summit at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly
Hills, Calif., moderated by Access Hollywood's Billy Bush.

"You have to constantly evolve and react to these new
platforms that are opening, and create new models to compensate," said Joel
Stillerman, executive VP of original programming and production and digital
content at AMC.

Multiscreen viewing is a model that many, if not all,
networks are picking up and developing. While the cable executives agree that
great content is the catalyst for a great social presence, expanding the brand
to multiple platforms has become a necessary step for all players.

Cable networks are using those new platforms in a variety of
ways. Stillerman cites The Walking Dead after-show The Talking Dead,
which was launched as venue for fans to interact with the show's cast and crew
via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Similarly, TNT, which
is launching its rebooted version of Dallas in June, is utilizing
the new Facebook Timeline feature to bring in new audience members (who would
otherwise be unfamiliar with the Dallas history) more savvy with social
media.

"[N]ow it's the industry norm," David Janollari, head of
programming at MTV, said. "You have to go out there and put more of your
content on all of these different platforms in advance of launching your show,
as well as while you're sustaining the run of the series."

It's not just adding content to more distribution portals –
it's more content in general. Cable once relied heavily on acquisitions, but
now has shifted its sights to original programming. AMC, for instance, once
touted as the home of "American Movie Classics" is now better known as the home
of Emmy-winning Mad Men and the aforementioned Walking Dead.

Michael Wright, executive VP and head of programming for
TNT, TBS and TCM, says that that is where their model is changing most. TNT
jumped on the original content bandwagon several years ago with The Closer,
which is just now ending its seven-year run.

Wright stressed the importance of developing content that is
purely the network's own. "Content that is exclusive to that brand and
affiliated with that brand is your best friend," Wright said.

The strength of an acquired show can also be used as a
strong lead-in for the network's original content. The Closer, one of
TNT's most successful shows, launched out of Law & Order; similarly,
TBS' recent acquisition and success with The Big Bang Theory could prove
to be a useful asset.

Starz managing director Carmi Zlotnik summed up the theme of
the panel – and the industry – more decisively.

"I don't think there's ever a point you can sit back and
say...that the platforms have established themselves and we know what we're
doing. The constant theme that we've all learned [is that] we all need to
evolve or die," Zlotnik said. "It's a fascinating period, where the creativity
and what we do in shows is evolving at the same time as the platforms that
they're placed on changes as well."

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