Peter Jenetsky speaks to ASTRA as the first of a three part series featuring decision makers who are commissioning Australian content. As General Manager, Content Strategy & Marketing for Movie Network Channels, Peter has overseen the first original production on the channels, Chandon Pictures, and the launch of new channels Starpics and FMC. Here Peter discusses content and programming strategy and the importance of local investment.
Your channels have been successful in broadcasting of variety of programming from Emmy Award winning Mad Men, to the feature film Alice In Wonderland to Australian-productions Small Time Gangster and The Jesters. How have you decided on the themes for your local productions and how have audiences responded?
We have two channels in our group that we commission original productions for; Movie EXTRA and more recently FMC, and both have quite diverse commissioning strategies which reflect their different target audiences.
Movie EXTRA’s broader programming and brand strategies have always successfully targeted men, so comedies and more specifically, narrative comedies with interesting and quirky characters have been our genre of choice for our series. In recent years we’ve embraced EXTRA’s inherent ‘blokeyness’ and taken it to another level which has lifted the male audience skew on the channel up over 60%. And it was this renewed focus that had us searching for a series which would hit the male demo hot buttons of guns, girls and laughs … enter Small Time Gangster, the story of an everyday suburban Dad who just happens to have a career as a violent stand over man. “Gangster” now stands as our most successful local production, winning a loyal and devoted fan base. Audience-wise it delivered a multiple on channel average audiences with time-shifting of each premiere episode routinely lifting the overnight numbers between 60 and 600%!
FMC truly lives its ambition of being a channel that appeals to all members of the family and boasts a unique audience profile whereby it has as many viewers under 17 years of age as it does 25 – 54’s. So when considering what to commission for the channel our aim is to find productions that both children / young adults and parents will find appealing. The channel brand has been successful at straddling these very diverse audiences and creating a shared viewing experience. However, we believe that successful projects for this channel must begin with a one core target market in mind. And it is then this demographic who act as the motivator within the household and bring the rest of the family along to discover the program. This is the case with Conspiracy 365, already a highly successful young adult novel series which tweens / teens love and are passionate about. But as a high production value, mystery, action and adventure television series it will appeal more broadly.
What was the genesis for your new series Conspiracy 365 and the unique programming strategy?
Two things at the heart of the strategy were;
1. The story itself unfolds over an entire year starting January 1st and ending on December 31st. Much in the style of the action series ‘24’ where events occur in real time, Conspiracy 365 is adapted from 12 novels which were released one-a-month with each novel / month ending with a gripping cliff-hanger. We decided that this format of monthly cliff-hangers was also a great way to adapt the story for television.
2. We felt we could treat each instalment of Conspiracy 365 in the same way new movies premiere onto the channel each month. So effectively we have a monthly television event for each Conspiracy 365 episode. There is a significant marketing benefit that this strategy delivers. It has also created a synergy with the Publisher who will now re-release the novels featuring our lead, Harrison Gilbertson on the cover and it gives time for our extensive multi-platform content strategy to be expanded.
Movie Network Channels has increased its perception of being ‘local’ with Movie Extra Tropfest, was this the intent and in what other ways are you working with local filmmakers?
“Live and local” is one of the programming mantras that FOXTEL has challenged the channels community to deliver more of, and that’s exactly what Movie Extra Tropfest is. It is possibly the largest live non-sporting event telecast in Australia. We have a long and successful association with Tropfest and the film-making fraternity who associate with the event. It’s an important platform for aspiring filmmakers who want to reach an audience for their stories, hone their craft and put themselves in the public and industry eye. It’s where we uncovered Rob Carlton and his project “Chandon Pictures” which we turned into a 2 season cult comedy and we’ve also invested in feature films produced by Tropfest alumni. So its been a mutually rewarding and highly satisfying relationship to date.
Are there more local productions planned for Movie Network in 2012?
There will be new productions commissioned to commence later in 2012. We have the Producers of “Small Time Gangster” developing a potential 2nd season, and another potential airing of the industry’s dirty laundry with a 3rd instalment from “The Jesters”. And we are very keen to get a gauge on the first FMC family audience commissioning before we make further decisions on what comes next for Movie Network Channels.