In Virtual Upfront Pitch, A+E Says Ties With Talent Help It Transcend Linear TV: “Our Strategic Interests Now Represent Nearly 3,000 Artists”

A+E Networks operates 10 linear networks, the company made sure to note Wednesday during its virtual upfront, but execs said the company’s reach goes beyond the diminishing horizons of pay-TV.

President and Chairman Paul Buccieri also highlighted the company’s 50 FAST channels and teased some of the 2,000-plus hours of original programming planned for 2024 during the pitch to ad buyers. Serving as a conduit to talent is another priority for A+E, he added. “Through strategic investments and partnerships with studios and talent management, we’ve been able to build capabilities and collaborate with some of the most sought-after storytellers in their fields. Our strategic interests now represent nearly 3,000 artists.”

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To that end, the company announced new projects with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Tom Hanks, Barack Obama and Derek Jeter, among others. In a press release, Buccieri said it is the “power of imagination and storytelling that binds us all, no matter how or where we choose to watch.”

EVP of Ad Sales Peter Olsen was the only exec apart from Buccieri to speak during the briskly paced, 30-minute presentation. He touted the company’s branded content production efforts and also announced the rollout of a new tool called InterAction. The research initiative generates a trio of metrics on ad buys across A+E’s “overall viewer universe,” gauging their effectiveness in terms of attention, recall and search engagement. The tool blends data from Tvision, Brand Effect and EDO.

In an interview with Deadline prior to the upfront, Olsen said the company has been continuing to emphasize its reach despite the reality of pay-TV subscriber levels continuing to decline. He also acknowledged the company is facing increased competition, with Amazon Prime Video and Netflix now part of the main upfront crowd, reflecting the melding of streaming and linear. Disney is also pushing into the streaming ad sector and YouTube is also continuing to gain share in the living room.

“That’s the thing that’s happened in the last year or so is that the marketplace is one big marketplace,” Olsen said. “The thing that we’re pointing out to clients is, ‘Don’t just look at the number of subscribers. Look at subscribers to the ad tiers.’ That’s an important distinction. Try not to look at ‘everything new is better.’ I think there’s a tendency on the client/agency side, ‘Gotta partner with the new.’ Especially companies as big and relevant as” Amazon and Netflix. “You’ve got to keep buying depth … you still need partners like us to reach all of your customers.”

As far as the virtual nature of A+E’s upfront pitch, Olsen said the format would enable it to reach more than 3,000 buyers over the coming days, a bigger audience than a one-off live event could accommodate. Unlike during the Covid era, when virtual was the only option, he added, “We do a lot of viewing parties now. It’s a little more hybrid. They don’t come to us; we go to them. We have to play a different game.”

In terms of the timing in early March, he said, “We like going early because these next six weeks are more important than the end of May, when a lot of the decisions are already made.”

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