Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO, Entertainment Studios, joins three others in being inducted into the CableFAX Program Hall of Fame this year. We caught up with Allen to discuss multiplatform and OTT, being an independent in today’s landscape and thoughts on his successful career. Join us in honoring the Hall of Fame, winners of the Program Awards and the Top Operators next week on Sept. 25 at the Yale Club in NYC.
You’ve been outspoken about cable’s need to lower what it spends on producing content to compete in a multiplatform/OTT world. What’s your latest assessment of how the industry is doing?
The industry is finally starting to understand the necessity of lowering costs for content production. Our biggest growth opportunities are with the MVPDs that are aggressively reducing their content costs without sacrificing quality and the over-the-top platforms. We had a distributor drop channels from a large programming group for our networks, and they did not receive one call about the overpriced networks that they dropped. I guarantee you’ll see more of that in the near future.
As someone who has built a multi-million dollar company from the ground up, what one habit or personality trait do you feel has been most vital to your success?
I only get behind projects and content for which I have strong, personal passion. The one thing I always tell my kids about success in life is to pursue their passions with unrelenting commitment! If you don’t really believe in what you’re producing, pitching, and selling, people will sense that from the beginning, and that’s a waste of everybody’s time.
What’s your take on programming costs and how operators and programmers can ensure that consumers don’t cut the cord?
The biggest innovation in cable in recent years has been the changing mindset towards doing business with more independents to help bring down content costs. We at Entertainment Studios Networks provide our distributors studio-quality content with one hundred percent authentication rights and VOD. We’re also able to leverage our other businesses and platforms to allow our MVPD partners to extend their message beyond their current subscriber base. It’s just a matter of whether or not the MVPDs will reduce costs for their subscribers and mitigate cord cutting.
With so many places to sell content these days, how do you think Entertainment Studios’ syndication business will evolve to seize those opportunities?
It’s not a matter of being excited about a single initiative, since we are a studio and content factory. We recently announced our seventh HD cable network, JUSTICE CENTRAL, a 24-hour court and legal news network, and we have plans to launch more networks in the coming years. We have nearly 30 shows in syndication on broadcast television stations, and we’re able to tell over 25 million people per week about our cable networks and on which platforms you can find them. In the current environment, all of this is a must-have. And if you don’t have it, you’re dying a rapid death because the digital revolution is moving at a much faster pace than anyone has ever experienced.
What’s the biggest opportunity for cable networks today? And what’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest opportunity for cable networks today is TV Everywhere.
As for challenges, it is the media conglomerates with expensive cable network portfolios that have all the challenges. This is a great time to be an independent. High-cost programming and over-the-top are much bigger problems than the MVPDs will ever admit.
You’ve obviously found a lot of success. But as you look back on it, is there anything you would have done differently? What’s your biggest regret?
I would not have done anything differently. All my mistakes have made me better. I have no regrets.
What’s one thing cable operators and programmers should do right now to strengthen the business and ensure its long-term viability?
They should reach out even more to independents. It takes creativity and innovation to cut through all the branding of the large media conglomerates, and if you notice throughout history, our bosses, the subscribers, tend to gravitate towards the independents for fresh new ideas. With over-the-top opportunities, the independents will thrive.