For today's cable networks, a well-defined and marketed brand
is not only the key to success, but the only way to stand out, in what has been
dubbed by media watchers as the "Golden Age of Cable."
It is especially true for the trio of cable
programming executives on the panel at the Hollywood Radio & Television
Society's "Cable Chiefs" Newsmaker Luncheon Wednesday at the Beverly
Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. The
panel was moderated by Electus chairman Ben Silverman, who called the panelists
"multichannel heads," given their oversight of not one, but many,
Nancy Dubuc, president of entertainment and media
at A+E Networks, who has oversight of A&E, Lifetime and History, said that
each of the cable networks have their "own brand fulfillment. It's our job
to not only manage that, but evolve that. I think we've done that at A&E
Networks, of evolving these brands while staying true to what they stand for."
Such is the case with Hatfields & McCoys, which Dubuc mentioned throughout the panel as
having solidified cable's place alongside broadcast, with its record numbers
when it premiered. The miniseries was History's first foray into scripted
programming and drew a larger audience than the broadcast networks for the week
But History, with its self-explanatory name, has
less of an effort to make when establishing its brand identity, and therefore a
greater advantage when marketing to its audience. Turner Entertainment Networks
president Steve Koonin-with oversight of TBS, TNT, TCM and
truTV-says that having an "alphabet soup" network name puts them at a
"When you manage a brand, you have to define
who you are and consistently deliver against that," Koonin said. "It
is vitally important as the business gets more fractured, that consumers have
The fracturing business environment has been top
of mind for content creators, networks and distributors, especially with a
greater push towards TV Everywhere. HBO is a standout example of the power of
TV Everywhere with its highly popular HBO Go app, which allows subscribers to
view the network's content on multiple devices.
Michael Lombardo, president of programming at HBO,
still attests that appointment viewing is the way to better reach an audience.
So-called "binge-viewing" (as made popular by the all-at-once release
of Netflix's House of Cards), he said, may not
be "the best way to keep a viewer engaged emotionally.
"For us, the best of both worlds is to have
both the on demand and Go experience," Lombardo said. "But...our hope
is that Game of Thrones becomes a Sunday night experience."
The executives all agreed that the way to reach
those audiences is via quality content. With cable racking up Emmys, Golden
Globes and SAG awards as well as viewers, the pressure is on to create better
content to compete with the likes of ratings-drawing The Walking Dead or the acclaimed
Homeland on their respective cable rivals.
Without broadcast network oversight, the cable
networks have more opportunity to focus on creating rather than pleasing
advertisers-and content is what has fueled the rise of cable, according to
"You can work in broadcast and you can make a
lot of money, or you can work with cable and you can have your vision,"
Koonin summed up. "We value content."