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TV Execs: Attracting Audiences, Consistency Key to Rebranding

While there is no definitive approach to rebranding a network, attracting audiences and a consistent message is a key to success. That was the message from TV network executives at "The Rebranded Channel" panel, moderated by Variety chief TV critic Brian Lowry, Tuesday at Variety and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation's TV Summit 2011 event in Los Angeles.

Diane Robina, EVP development, acquisitions and programming strategy for TV Guide Network, touted a three-pronged approach to attract audiences: strong acquisitions (she referenced Curb Your Enthusiasm at her network), specials and tentpole events and originals.

"If you have these three pieces, you can be successful, even without a lot of marketing dollars."

The panel also offered different perspectives on what a hit show means for shaping a network.

"No matter what you say your brand is, when that hit hits, it shapes your brand," said Kevin Kay, president of Spike TV.

"We try and see what our audience responds to. So we provide more of that in other shows," said Marc Juris, EVP/GM of truTV and In Session. But he also cautioned not relying on the success of one show to shape a network's strategy. "If you follow a hit, you're being reactive. You're not being proactive in building your brand. We create consistency on experience which is the most important thing in this market today."

Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of Investigation Discovery and Military Channel, echoed that sentiment, referring to the vast television landscape where viewers are constantly flooded with varied programming choices. "The viewer is confused; they don't know where to go, what to go to, so they come to these networks by default," he said. "Once you choose that direction, [you have to be] consistent."

When asked if it was harder for OWN to have to undergo a rebrand and launch in the spotlight, OWN CEO Christina Norman said it was going to be difficult no matter what or when it did it. "We were playing our own game. No one was defining what our strategy was or what our goals were," she said. "It was important to tell our own story and chart our own course."