Emerging Cable Nets: Style success Story Would Be Hard to Duplicate Today

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

When Style Network launched in 1998, operators were looking for digital content. Today there is virtually a moratorium on linear network launches, said Brad Fox, executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Comcast Networks. Style, now in 42 million homes, was in the right place at the right time when it began its journey as a new network.

“The real challenge today is to truly find the value for the operator in the other areas of the business they can grow,” Mr. Fox said. “They would say they don’t need more linear channels, that unless there is something specific that consumers and customers want, whether it be local ad sales or high speed, you can’t just be a network anymore,” he said.

For instance, PBS Kids Sprout, of which Comcast is an owner, launched as a 50-hour VOD network before it became a 24/7 linear destination. The network is in about 17 million Comcast homes to date and Mr. Fox expects to close deals with other operators by the end of this year.

Along those same lines, he believes Style and E! have been successful in part because of the additional fare they have in broadband, VOD and some high-definition content.

As Style was working its way up the rungs on the distribution ladder, what worked well was committing resources to programming from the get-go. “You have to deliver high-quality programming,” Mr. Fox said. In fact, Style has aimed to create original franchise shows, such as “Clean House,” “Isaac” and “How Do I Look?” said Salaam Coleman Smith, head of Style.

“They are original productions that are developed in-house and produced in-house, and they are strips that have become anchor shows. They have the key talent attached that is recognizable by our viewers,” she said.

The threshold has changed over time for how many homes a network must be in to reach profitability, Mr. Fox said. He believes Style can hit the 70 million mark, but it’s profitable at 42 million, he said. Depending on programming costs and overhead, some networks can be successful in 30 million homes, he said.