Henrik Pabst, the chief commercial officer of the newly formed SevenOne Entertainment Group, talks to World Screen about sourcing, scheduling and monetizing programming across all services.
In March of this year, ProSiebenSat.1 Media—which is structured around entertainment, content production and global sales, and commerce segments—announced it would be returning its focus to the entertainment business. With a portfolio of 15 free and pay-TV channels, as well as video-on-demand services, including the recently launched Joyn, the group can reach some 45 million households in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Henrik Pabst, the chief commercial officer of the newly formed SevenOne Entertainment Group, is responsible for content and its use on all platforms.
WS: Tell us about the strategy to focus once again on entertainment and your vision of SevenOne Entertainment Group as the home of German-speaking entertainment.
PABST: ProSiebenSat.1 is refocusing on what we know we do best: delivering first-class entertainment. As viewing behavior continues to change, we are transforming our business from a national linear broadcaster into a platform-agnostic content company; a company that is driving demand for digital content and creating new digital offerings, such as our digital platform Joyn and new audio business FYEO, while also strengthening our linear channel brands. In a nutshell, we want to be the home of entertainment in the German-speaking world, distributing content that people love across our own and third-party platforms, and always finding the best mix between reach and monetization. Thanks to various data, we are getting a much clearer idea as to what our customers want and how they want to consume their entertainment.
WS: ProSiebenSat.1 includes several free-TV stations, pay channels and VOD services, including Joyn. How do you ensure you have the right mix of content across all these services?
PABST: Fortunately, our free-TV stations are all geared towards very distinct demographics and have clearly defined brands, and each of our fantastic team of channel executives knows the audiences of their channels inside out. So we commission content for these platforms and audiences—both linear and digital—in a very targeted way. When it comes to acquiring shows, we usually make decisions based on our whole portfolio of channels and platforms to find the best content for the best audiences.
WS: How has Joyn been received by consumers?
PABST: Joyn has been extremely well received by customers and keeps on growing, so we are delighted by the response. Joyn attracted over 3.9 million unique users in March and already offers free access to over 60 channels, and a growing slate of Joyn originals such as jerks. and Check. Check, our latest original MaPa, and coming soon A Day in the Life of an Uber Driver.
WS: How does viewing differ on linear channels compared to VOD or digital services? Are the most popular shows on linear channels different from the most popular on VOD or digital services?
PABST: Live TV shows and local productions like The Masked Singer, The Voice of Germany or Celebrity Big Brother, live sports, daily magazines and news are all in high demand by viewers on our linear channels and digital platforms. As one of the leading broadcasters in Europe in terms of reach across all platforms, we ensure the linear and digital success of our content offering by considering three core values: deep understanding of our audience across all touchpoints, high expertise in different consumption behaviors and consistent [funneling] of key-findings into a content development process for all channels and platforms—always with a 360-degree approach that provides additional digital content. Of course, we also see, beside cross-platform successes, specific preferences on different VOD and on-demand offerings like scripted series or daily magazines. Our science magazine Galileo with its leading position among subscribers on YouTube is just one example of how we understand and serve the different needs of audiences on digital services.
WS: As you program the various stations, channels and services in the group, how much do you rely on Red Arrow Studios?
PABST: Red Arrow has contributed numerous successful international formats to our channel portfolio including Married at First Sight and The Taste on SAT.1, which are important pillars in our schedules; and Red Arrow’s German production company Redseven Entertainment, also produces a number of our local versions of big entertainment shows such as Germany’s Next Topmodel by Heidi Klum on ProSieben. Red Arrow and our brand channel executives are constantly working closely together.
WS: What role does acquired product play on the various stations, channels and services?
PABST: Licensed shows have always played an important role for ProSiebensat.1 and will continue to do so in the future. While it’s a priority for us to expand our local content, there’s no doubt that audiences still love also to see the latest blockbuster or popular U.S. series, whether on our linear stations, pay TV, or digital platforms like Joyn.
WS: On which channels and services do you schedule which content to obtain the broadest audience reach?
PABST: It’s all about applying the perfect windowing strategy. We believe that linear and digital worlds can work together perfectly: some content is best left in one world, whereas other shows may thrive in both. The great asset of linear TV is live programming, such as sports and must-see local formats that cannot be found anywhere else. With live shows such as The Masked Singer on ProSieben, or home-grown reality hits like Celebrities Under Palm Trees on SAT.1, our linear channels are bringing in great numbers, with skyrocketing market shares way above channel average. Combining this with local daily news and magazines, the right mix of licensed shows, linear TV continues to do very well. The perfect orchestration of our content across linear and digital is based on data and deep understanding of audiences and different consumption behaviors on different platforms. VOD drives binge-watching scripted content or shows and offers great opportunities for more niche and edgy content. Also, Joyn is the perfect platform to introduce new shows that can run as an exclusive preview before hitting linear screens. Platforms like YouTube or Facebook Watch are serving a more “snackable content” offering, which fits perfectly for shows, comedy, magazines and news, in a short and curated way. The online platforms of our channel brands are well-positioned as “home of fans” destinations, aggregating catch-ups of entire shows and all the content pieces of different platforms—offering orientation through 24/7 entertainment around lighthouse brands like Germany’s Next Topmodel by Heidi Klum, resulting in three-digit growth in the number of registered users.
WS: How do you coordinate with your sales team to monetize the audience reach in the most efficient way?
PABST: It’s important for us to understand both what our viewers want to see and when and where, and which platforms and shows are important to our advertising clients. Therefore, we have a close relationship with the sales team, as we strive to understand the “total reach” for each of our brands and formats. This enables our advertising clients to benefit from the advantages of our portfolio of different platforms—from high-reach linear TV to the targeting opportunities of digital offers.
WS: Have you been making any changes in programming in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? Are viewers watching more or differently than they did before the pandemic?
PABST: The current events have significantly boosted overall audiences for linear television. At first, viewers were clearly interested in additional news and information programming, which we delivered on both of our biggest channels, ProSieben and SAT.1. However, during the course of the pandemic, it has become clear that viewers are also showing a greater interest in escapist entertainment, particularly entertainment formats. One important thing we have learned with each new show is that you have to decide at the beginning whether you plan to inform or entertain the audience. Trying to do both has not worked well.