Executive Vice President, Partnerships & Operations
IFC & Sundance Channel
IFC and Sundance Channel both have indie sensibilities – yet they’re so different. Do you treat them separately for ad sales purposes, or are you able to leverage synergies between them?
While IFC and Sundance Channel both have the same roots in indie film, they’re each distinct in the way those roots shine through in their brands today. IFC is finding success with its focus on alt comedies like Portlandia and Maron while Sundance Channel is becoming a destination for high-quality, critically acclaimed scripted dramas like Top of the Lake and Rectify. While we have dedicated sales teams for each network that are focused on building the right partnerships, we work to create synergies when it’s appropriate for the network, the audience and the client. And this year, for the first time, we’re developing a number of advertiser opportunities across AMC Networks.
What’s the biggest request you’re hearing from Madison Avenue these days?
We heard loud and clear from the sales community that they wanted more of Sundance Channel, and we’re responding by taking the network fully ad supported later this year. We did it with IFC just three years ago, and the network is better for it today. It’s allowed us to create more original alt comedies that the audience asked us for, and it’s created an opportunity to better partner with our clients.
Speaking of IFC, how much has its recent rise as an alternative comedy powerhouse affected the conversation with advertisers?
IFC consistently has a presence on the TV pages, on social media and in daily conversations amongst our biggest audience group—the Responsible Rebels. That support and praise permeates the conversation with our clients. Before going ad supported, IFC was known for creating best-in-breed branded entertainment, and that hasn’t changed. Geico worked with us to create a spot that emulated a sketch from Portlandia and used their iconic Maxwell the Pig. The talent behind the show also created a custom sketch for Subaru. We’re able to integrate sponsors into our programming in a way that’s organic to the air and keeps viewers engaged, and we give our partners access to storylines and talent that they don’t get on other networks.
Audiences have never been more savvy and skeptical about advertising—and that’s doubly true for the “indie” crowd. What unique approaches must you take to keep them engaged?
Good creative is good creative regardless of whether it’s content or advertising, and our audiences know that. We work with our partners to create compelling content around their brands that goes beyond the traditional spots-and-dots model. We’re serious about curating our on-air environment, and that means presenting an advertiser through the IFC brand prism and carrying a smaller ad load than other networks so the breaks are clutter free and a client’s message breaks through.
How has social media and the 2nd screen affected your relationships with advertisers?
Our audiences are extremely active in social media. They’re on Facebook sharing their favorite video clips and on Twitter telling their friends what to watch. Because of that engagement and constant online talk about our shows, social media has become one of our biggest sales tools.
Measurement continues to be a challenge across devices. What challenges do you face with advertisers when it comes to integrating campaigns on multiple platforms?
We’re figuring out the right formula alongside our advertising partners and increasingly having more meaningful conversations about what works for everyone.
What’s the number one trait that every sales exec needs to succeed?
It may sound cliché, but in this business it’s really important to have a sense of humor and be able to tell a story. That’s essentially what we do every day. We tell our businesses’ brand story, programming story—and then we sell those stories to clients who fit organically into the picture. And the one thing that’s truly vital for every television sales executive is to love and know the medium. Watch TV on TV, stream content, check out online videos. Become familiar with what’s out there. It’s just as important to know your product as it is your competitors.’