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Euro 50 > Leaders in broadband and pay-TV


Digital TV Europe November/December 2010


Tom Davidson Managing director, AETN UK


This year Tom Davidson’s ambitious distribu- tion strategy has seen AETN’s European turnover grow by 62% year-on-year.


Age 40


Education BA Business/Economics, University of California at Santa Barbara.


Previous positions Vice-president, business development, Sony Picture Entertainment (SPE); general manager, AXN Central Europe; finance director, international networks, SPE; finance director HBO Romania.


Achievement of the year 2010 has been a remarkable year for AETN UK in both UK and Europe. This year we embarked on a com- pletely different type of project for the busi- ness; our first theatrically-set documentary production, The People Speak. For this we assembled the biggest collection of stars on one stage ever seen in the West End including Colin Firth, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ben Kingsley and Joss Stone. The concept began in the US with Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States, revisiting American history told from the perspective, not of the leader of the day, but the common man’s voice. In the US, Matt Damon and History brought this to life on stage and then later, on-air. The UK has an extremely rich history, deeply rooted in lit- erature. This was a tremendous strength for the programme and equally, an extraordinary challenge. Our researchers sifted through thousands of incredible moments captured in articles, speeches, and letters and we had many an argument when we came to cutting down the list. It was extremely exciting gaining an insight into theatre for the first time.


Theatre works differently to TV, which we quickly learnt, as we shifted production, budg- et and marketing methods to adapt. We were all extremely passionate about The People Speakand it was the perfect project to stretch the perceptions of what we are capable of. Following success in the US and the UK, we are looking to repeat this project in other markets. This year also saw us launch our most suc- cessful UK channel Crime & Investigation Network into five European countries. Starting with Cyfra Plus in Poland, new launches fol- lowed in Serbia, Estonia and Bulgaria. Our strategy, as with History, is to launch channels with local language. A year ago we broadcast History in twelve European languages; since then we have launched History in two more languages and CI in five.


Surprises of 2010 We have all been pleas- antly surprised that non-linear viewing has seemed to support rather than weaken linear channels’ performance. This time last year, we were curious to see what the role of linear would be as viewer demand for access to view content online, on mobile and through VOD services increased. We have been delighted that these technologies have increased con- tent engagement and supported our linear offer. Non-linear channels have created increased access points to our linear channel. Viewers’ first interaction with our content might now come from hearing about a pro- gramme at work and then watching it on catch up TV; loving it and then watching the next episode on linear. Linear’s strength continues to create “water cooler moments” and non-lin- ear access points help viewers be a part of it, before engaging with linear next time.


Goals for next year Our biggest goal is to significantly increase our investment in high- quality and high profile content. We have always been fortunate to have a pipeline to AETN’s award-winning content library. We are looking to replicate similar qualities to bring history to life in our commissions and produc- tion strategy – whilst applying the “fewer, big- ger, better” philosophy. We are on the look-out for new and exciting ways to engage viewers across Europe, utilising talent and contempo- rary storytelling techniques. In the next 12


months we aim to create programmes across the portfolio that our viewers enjoy watching, but that also offer the substance and quality that viewers have long associated with History. Content is our greatest asset in the delivery of high-quality channels to our clients across the UK and Europe. We intend to extend the reach of our content more across Europe through a variety of linear and non-linear technologies. Content is the first step, followed by a commit- ment to making content available in the for- mats operators need to reach subscribers. In the next year we plan to continue our commit- ment to servicing our clients with content and investment in technology. Content is critical to this, but is not the whole picture. Core to our growth plan is an investment in local relation- ships and engagement. In 2010 we significant- ly increased our investment in local markets across Europe, this trend will continue in the next 12 months in order to support our growth.


Game-changing future development It has to be 3D. We’ve all known it was coming, but the viewer reaction to this and the speed with which the market is adopting in 2010 is much faster than I think any of us anticipated. 3D has the potential to change the industry more than any technological development in recent memory. 3D fundamentally changes the pro- duction values, budgets and distribution chains that have been long established and it is yet to be seen how we as an industry will evolve with it. Market leaders across UK, Scandinavia, the Benelux and CEE have launched 3D event channels to feed consumer appetite. The chal- lenge we, as programmers, face is how to meet the market demands for content, whilst managing significant increases in the cost of 3D programme production. This year AETN and BSkyB partnered to create our first 3D production – The Universe. We have been delighted with the success in the UK and plan to roll out in other European territories in the coming months.


Ambition as a youngster I wanted to be a volleyball player, but was too short.


Favourite TV show Southpark. Life outside work Football with the kids, ski.


Visit us at at www.digitaltveurope.net 18


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