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With streaming strategies abruptly shifting to AVODs and publishers regularly reporting losses in the hundreds of millions, the TV marketplace has never been more volatile—that is, unless you’re A+E Networks.
Though some publishers may be pulling back on content amid uncertain economic conditions, without a high-cost SVOD streaming platform to weigh it down, A+E Networks is producing more than ever, announcing 2,500 hours of content ahead of its virtual 2023-2024 upfront on Wednesday.
“It’s the most content that we’ve ever produced in our history,” Peter Olsen, president of ad sales at A+E Networks, told Adweek.
And that content comes with marquee talent across a portfolio consisting of The History Channel, Lifetime, A&E and Home.Made.Nation.
The History Channel is launching a major initiative leading up to the 250th anniversary of the U.S. in 2026 and partnering with several stars ahead of the milestone. Upcoming projects include Kevin Costner’s The West, Black Patriots: The 761st Battalion from Morgan Freeman and FDR from Bradley Cooper and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Meanwhile, Lifetime has programming coming from big names such as Janet Jackson, and A&E is announcing Kings of BBQ with Anthony Anderson and Cedric the Entertainer.
Overall, the company is fully embracing its identity as a content producer, with touchpoints across linear, websites, podcasts, apps, DTC, AVOD and SVOD platforms.
“Our goal within this media evolution is to meet audiences wherever and however they consume content by working with great worldwide storytellers to develop and execute their vision,” Paul Buccieri, president and chairman, A+E Networks Group, said in a statement.
Olsen previously told Adweek the company partners with “virtually every streamer,” and that is still the case heading into the new upfront season.
“We’re still selling content to almost all partners,” Olsen said. “We don’t have a walled-garden approach to it.”
In 2022, the company focused on going beyond demographics and reaching people of all ages instead of just the coveted 25-54 demo. Given so many touchpoints, Olsen told Adweek that strategy is inherently built in across its platforms.
And the content plan is paying off.
The company said that in terms of total consumption across platforms (linear, FAST/AVOD, SVOD, CTV and digital), A+E Networks was on par with the previous year and more than 4% ahead of pre-Covid (fiscal 2019) in 2022, which Olsen has credited to consumers returning to brands they love in a cluttered media landscape.
A network of solutions
Though “cluttered” is a bit of an understatement. After all, in 2022, Television output increased to 599 scripted series—the most of all time, according to FX’s annual tally. But despite the competition and the constant change in the TV industry, Olsen said A+E Networks is unfazed.
“We’re just embracing this new media landscape and acknowledging that where it all ends, we don’t know,” Olsen said. “But where it ends—content, talent, storytelling and having multiple revenue streams or the ability to pivot as we go—sets us up pretty well.”
In keeping with that “embracing” mindset, the company isn’t necessarily pushing its own goals on advertisers in 2023. Instead, A+E Networks is focusing on custom solutions, especially with macroeconomic conditions leading to a soft ad market to close out 2022.
The company’s virtual upfront also feeds into the custom solution strategy. Forgoing a big, in-person event in favor of a virtual option and smaller client meetings allows the company to reach more people with more bespoke solutions. After all, as Olsen explained, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” plan, and each client has a “different perspective on what success looks like.”
“This is a year where we’re listening to the advertisers’ challenges and trying to respond. We’re not like, ‘Here are our five priorities,'” Olsen said. “It’s whatever your priorities are, we’ll do our best to solve.”