Pay TV forced to move from films to series: network executives

Pay TV executives told the audience at SPAA Fringe that they had to stop investing in Australian films because they didn’t feel they were reaching an audience.

“Nobody knew we were making movies, so we decided t move into TV series,” said Tony Forrest, CEO of the Movie Network Channels.

“We also felt that the films we were investing in were unsullied by human eyes, so we moved to TV,” added Peter Rose, CEO of Showtime Movie Channels.

At SPAA Fringe, both Forrest and Rose were part of a panel on what pay TV is looking for in terms of original programming.

“We spend a crapload of money on Australian production and we try to make it work,” said Forrest. “We don’t do it [spend on local product] because we’re lovely people. We do it as a marketing spend; our successful investment in Australian content gets loads of promotional support, free advertising.”

In terms of how to pitch a show for Movie Extra, Forrest said it was essential to demonstrate a good knowledge of the channel, its history and style.

“If you don’t know what MovieExtra is, if you can’t convince me that you watch it every night at 8:30pm, don’t come and see us,” he said.

His Showtime counterpart added that local production has to sit next to the high-quality programming from their US partners such as HBO, Starz and AMC. One such project is the upcoming adaptation of the novel Cloudstreet.

“It’s 6.5hours of original content, and it received little support from Australian funding bodies. Congratulations to them,” lamented Rose.

Rose and Forrest were joined by Foxtel director of programming Ross Crowley, BBC Worldwide general manager Tony Iffland, Foxtel group channel manager Duane Hatherly(Arena, FOX8, Bio), Foxtel general manager for acquisitions Jim Buchan, and National Geographic Channel head of programming David Gunson. The only female executive present was The LifeStyle Channels’ Nicole Sheffield.

“We don’t commission programs for daytime. We don’t commission panel shows or shows without experts,” said Sheffield.

“It’s not 1974 anymore, with slow,boring docos. With so much competition more content is needed, but we want to entertain. We won’t reach young audiences with old-style docos; we want dramatic ideas and concepts,” added Gunson.


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