At NATPE 2014, Frank Radice was able to speak with Jim Romanovich, Worldwide President of Associated Television Incorporated. In their chat they discussed the future of ATI and different programming for the seconds screen. The interview is a part of Red Touch Media’s continuing series, The Future of Content.
What do you think about the second screen? Do you think it’s the wave of the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Frank Radice: Hi this is Frank Radice and it’s the continuing Red Touch series on The Future of Content and I’m here with Jim Romanovich the Worldwide President of Associated Television Incorporated. Jim, tell me a little bit about this great success you guys have had this year.
Jim Romanovich: Well, I think our biggest was in the Hollywood Christmas parade this year which I think we’ve finally seen realized to the great potential that it always was, and that it was 30, 40 years ago. We had Stevie Wonder and Richie Sambora doing a duet together. We closed down Hollywood Boulevard. It was amazing. LeeAnn Rhymes, Billy Ray Cyrus, and it went on and on. Well yeah, we’ve had a number of productions, the Marie Osmond show for example, where we brought her back to television. And we have her now on Reelz Channel, and we’re also discussing doing some new shows for Reelz at some point. We’ll see how that works out. We’re just about ready to embark on a major project this year which will take us back into the drama field, which I can’t really speak too much about yet. But it’s going to be probably one of the largest undertaking we’ve ever done. And probably one of the biggest television events of the year.
Frank: That’s fantastic. You know, the whole industry seems to have changed. The syndicated business nowadays is so much involved in multi-screen, second screen applications and all of that. How does that effect you? And how do you guys work with that? Or even personally, how do you deal with it?
Jim: Well, you know, I’ve got two daughters, two teenage daughters and you know, they watch everything in clips on their smartphones, they watch Netflix, which I do too. And I’m finding that I’m much more of a Netflix guy. I’m not trying to do a commercial for them, but I just find that I like having all of my programs in one big bundle sometimes, at my convenience. But as far as the television experience, I don’t really think it’s changed all that much you know. They’re talking about, that people don’t multitask anymore while they’re watching TV. And I would tend to think that’s true for the most part because there are so many options to watching television that when you decide you want to watch your show, whatever your show is, whether it’s Walking Dead or Breaking Bad or Dexter, or whatever it is, you’re watching it. So even if it’s American Idol or shows like that, I think gone are the days where, for the most part, where TV is just on as background noise while you’re doing other things. I don’t think that exists as much anymore because it’s too fragmented. As far as whether the second screen, meaning mobile or iPads or anything other than your living room television screen for the most part, whether that’s going to be the future, well yeah, it is the future. But I still think that when people get older, I’m 51 years old, I still like to see things on a big screen. I can watch things on my smartphone, I can watch them on my Kindle, my iPad, whatever it is and I’ll do that if I’m somewhere else, if I’m in an airport or on an airplane or whatever it is. I’m not going to do it if I’m sitting, you know, at home. I’m going to watch my TV when I’m at home. And I’m going to watch those programs on there because I think older people like the comfort of their La-Z-Boy. They like to have something to drink, something to eat, and they want to see something big on the screen, especially if it’s sports. You know, football on a big screen, there’s nothing better than that. You can’t really watch that on a smartphone as much. I’ll do it standing in line at Costco, but I’m not going to do it sitting at home. I’d rather see it and hear it in stereo sound.
Frank: You mentioned a few shows early on there that are very, very cable oriented. So whether it’s Breaking Bad or it’s Dexter, we’re talking about the kinds of shows that you can go and grab and see in a binge way. Are there big differences maybe in the way that you produce programming now for the different experiences? Whether it’s for a Netflix or a Hulu or for a Yahoo or for an Amazon Plus, does that matter in the way that you actually produce programs? Do you think about that?
Jim: Yes and no. Of course we’re cognizant of it and most of that is kind of a post situation. Because I think the way we produce television is the way we produce programs, it’s the same way we’ve always produced programs, and that is to be entertaining. And you know, everything is done in that style. When we do deals with an Amazon or a Starz or with YouTube or Netflix or whatever, they’re basically taking the show for the most part. Maybe they’re going to take clips of it and so forth. That’s ok. But as far as what we do, I don’t think it’s really changed as to how we produce the show. I mean, we don’t come to concepts and go ok, we need to think of, you know, Amazon and how it’s going to look on Amazon. I think we’re looking at ok, who’s watching this program. What is the demographic for this program in any way they can get it? That’s how we create our show.
Frank: Is there a difference today in the way syndication is made, how the deals are made? Is there a difference in the deal-making in the syndication world today than there was say, 10 years ago when you were at NATPE when it was in Vegas?
Jim: Yeah, I think there’s more station groups and deals that are done now that may not have been done the same way 10-15 years ago. Let’s say, I think it’s a much more narrow business than it was before. We’ve been in it for a long time so we’ve kind of grandfathered our way in and we have all of the relationships. We’ve been producing a lot of great programming. We produce, you know, we have over 7,500 hours a year for a lot of people. Actually more than that in syndication. We are non stop so, for us, it hasn’t changed to much with the way we do it. However, as far as our model, we’re still mainly doing partner programming.
Frank: Do you own the programs that you produce?
Jim: Oh yeah, definitely. We would not do anything differently. We own everything, which I think gives us our advantage. Because we can, we self-finance our shows and then we get them to, we get sponsors behind it and then we get them to the audience but we produce shows that we feel have the, that would resonate best with the television audience watching, actually watching television. You know, what we do well are holiday driven specials and more educational, informational types of series. You know, magic we do very well. We have a live magic tour which is based on our TV show, Masters of Illusion. Which we’re now doing for the CW this year. So we’re able to do the syndication, we’re able to do network, we’re doing cable network and we’re doing, you know, I just did a deal with Amazon as well too for a lot of our shows.
Frank: That’s fantastic. So that’s Jim Romanovich the Worldwide President of Associated Television Incorporated. I’m Frank Radice, see you next time.