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NYC TV Week: ID's Schleiff: 'My North Stars Are Branding and Marketing'

Clearly defining your brand and then successfully amplifying that brand to consumers are two of the keys to building a strong network, Henry Schleiff, group president, Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America told B&C consulting editor Melissa Grego at NYC TV Week on Thursday.

“There are two North Stars I use to guide me and my team: branding and marketing,” said Schleiff, who also led Court TV from 1998 to 2006 and Crown Media Holdings from 2006 to 2009. “What do we really mean by branding? To me, it’s curation, it’s an organizational principal. It’s a way of telling the audience what to expect when you get to this destination. However you get there I think it’s really imperative that we have clearly defined sharp brands.”

Being able to stand out from the crowd is becoming increasingly important in a world jam-packed with entertainment.

“We have great stuff coming up in 2016 but I don’t know if you are going to see it,” Schleiff said. “We don’t talk about marketing enough and I think that’s a big challenge for the industry. If we’re smart, we should look at how we do a better job of bringing sampling to some of the great programming that’s out there. How do you find these great shows? How do you know it’s there?”

Investigation Discovery’s challenge is taking its brand, which is already very successful and growing with women 25-54, and expanding it to a larger audience without veering too far off its established content path.

“We’ve done well and are highly rated with a core audience and we’ve done that with an audience that comes to us frequently. Every year we build a little bit more and they watch a little bit more. The challenge is reach – to get and bring in a slightly larger audience. You can spend money off-network and put things on taxis and buses, but the ocean is so big and our boat is so small that I don’t know if we are spending money effectively or not.”

Like many networks, Investigation Discovery tries to take advantage of social media to get the word out in a more targeted, engaged way.

“Probably the most effective thing we can do is social media. That helps us bring in a younger, hipper, and more engaged audience.”

While audiences are starting to watch TV differently, the missions remain the same: tell great stories and constantly connect with your audience to keep them coming back.

“Technology, OTT, skinny bundles – all of those are opportunities. We’re not going to defeat technology, it’s just going to continue to grow. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to watch stuff on your fork while you are eating breakfast. You’ll be able to measure that viewing and you’ll have advertising on the spoon. How do you take advantage of that? It comes back to the importance of the clear brand. If we can create great stories and create a clear brand, we’ll have a place on any anorexic bundle.”

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.