Last month, CableFAX’s Roundtable featured the international programming chiefs talking about growth prospects and how their brands play in other countries. Here at CableFAX.com, we’re serving up some bonus material from that discussion with Scripps Networks COO, Intl Bob Baskerville; Discovery Nets Intl evp, COO John Honeycutt; and National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle.
Do you primarily export your US shows? Or are your producing original content for your international nets? If it’s the latter, does any of that content make its way back to your US network?
Lyle: In the past, it has been a lot of traffic from the U.S. to the rest of the world with a couple of exceptions. Now with our new EVP of Content and Global Development, Hamish Mykura in London, we are looking for international shows to make their way from the international sphere towards the U.S. Throughout my career, whether it has been in Australia, London or Los Angeles I have believed some of the great shows come from elsewhere. We will have a mixture internationally where much comes from the US but crucial original programming will be made in each region. I love some of the Latin American original material for National Geographic Channels there, like the series “Prophesies,” or “Casi ComoNuevo” (‘Almost New’), a show about design in the home.
Baskerville: We work to leverage our expertise and “Best of Breed” lifestyle content from the U.S., which is a strategy that has worked well for us. Hit shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “House Hunters International,” and “Food Network Star”have all proven to resonate well with a global audience. That being said, we’re always looking for ways to localize our content to make our channels even more relevant for the viewer. We’ve started producing more original content in the food space with new international talent, with shows like “Andy Bates’ Street Feasts,” “Reza Mahammad,” “Spice Prince of India,” and “Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco.” The first original commission we did for Food Network Asia, “A Culinary Coup: The Launch of Ku De Ta,” also aired on the Cooking Channel in the U.S.
Honeycutt: At Discovery, we’re investing more than one billion dollars a year in content. We program our channels with the right mix of global, international, regional and local programming. While we do draw on our U.S. pipeline to feed our international channels, we rely heavily on the expertise in the regions to create compelling local content as well. Discovery recently launched a new international production and development team, led by Luis Silberwasser, that creates specifically for our international markets. This is a new content pipeline for shows coming back to our networks in the US as well. We also purchases the production company Betty last year and are very excited to have very creative group of producers in the family. In addition, we are always looking for formats or series that we can acquire for local relevance and/or across multiple countries or regions. In the past years, we have been able to present programming ideas from around the world, resulting in content that’s originated from each of our four regional operations that have aired on networks in the U.S. as well as other international markets.
Are there synergies between your international and domestic ad operations?
Honeycutt: Yes, absolutely. Discovery Communications is a global operation—with nearly 50 global offices (including the U.S.). Our International Ad Sales team works closely with our U.S. team. From the other corporate functions point of view, we have fully integrated teams across the company—from IT, business affairs, communications, marketing, finance and more. We don’t differentiate U.S. from international. We are One Discovery.
Baskerville: Due to the specificities and regulations of each market, it is tricky to align ad sales with our domestic efforts. But whenever there are learnings or information to share, there is certainly an open dialogue between both operations.
Lyle: Some synergies exist with shared information on approaches or genre specific strategies but by and large the advertising relationships are strongest and most effective at the regional level.