Acorn TV’s Matthew Graham Talks Bringing British Content to the U.S.


NEW YORK: Matthew Graham, the VP of Acorn TV, part of RLJ Entertainment, speaks with TV USA about Acorn TV and the popularity of British content in the U.S.

Acorn TV first launched in July 2011 as a way to leverage “emerging video streaming technologies and platforms to provide convenient and economical access to our rich catalogue of titles for our customers,” says Graham. He calls the service a “way to connect our audiences to the content they love. And in a world where consumers can pick and choose from à la carte programming options, we saw a big opportunity to expand our reach and audience.”

Since its launch, Acorn TV, which specializes in television content from Britain and beyond, has grown, as has the list of apps and devices that support the platform. Among these are Roku, Samsung and iOS, and Graham assures World Screen Newsflash that more will be added to that list. He also notes that the company has been improving the nuts and bolts of the SVOD service, including video transcoding and streaming, customer billing and support, to enhance the overall user experience with the company’s digital products.

Graham explains that Acorn TV attracts new subscribers through a two-pronged strategy. “For fans of British TV, we strive to be the place where new episodes of longtime favorites premiere in North America; shows like Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Foyle’s War and Doc Martin are great examples of this,” he says. “Just as importantly, Acorn TV is also a place to discover some of the very best new series coming out of the U.K. and abroad.” These include shows such as Jamaica InnThe Driver, New Zealand’s The Brokenwood Mysteries and Australia’s A Place to Call Home, which exclusively premiered on Acorn TV.

He continues: “For the consumer who isn’t already familiar with British TV, but who appreciates high-quality dramas, mysteries and comedies, we have the opportunity to introduce them to a whole world of quality programming. For many of our members, this is life changing! The passion our audience has for our content really drives organic sharing and discovery. For us, word of mouth, press coverage and social media are the foundations of our growth.”

As far as the hold British content has over audiences in the U.S., Graham explains, “The intelligence, wit and quality of British programming sets it apart from the vast majority of mainstream American television. There is also a nice element of escapism in watching content from abroad. Our audience is intellectually curious and engaged, so I think the cultural exposure that comes with series like Foyle’s War or Midsomer Murders is an important factor.”

Acorn TV offers a mix of programming. Graham calls detective mysteries and dramas the “cornerstones” of its content offering, which also includes comedies and documentaries. This content comes from the “wide variety of content providers, from major global distributors to independent producers,” with which the company works, Graham tells us.

He explains that having exclusive rights to the content Acorn TV airs is increasingly important, as the service has “grown to be the destination for exclusive premieres of much of the very best programming coming out of the U.K. Much of our audience values the ability to see this programming first on Acorn TV, so having those rights is key.”

Original programming is also important. Graham notes that there is a slate of original programming in various stages of production and development from the company’s U.K. production arm, Acorn Media Enterprises (formerly Acorn Productions). He says that over the past year, RLJ Entertainment, through Acorn Productions, has co-produced and premiered the final episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Foyle’s War, as well as the brand-new Partners in Crime, which is also based on Christie’s work. Plus, Acorn TV became the first niche streamer to receive an Emmy program nomination, with this year’s outstanding television movie nomination for Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case, according to Graham.

Recent premieres on Acorn TV include the BAFTA Award-winning comedy Detectorists and Partners in Crime. On October 5, Acorn TV launched the North American premiere of the newest season of Martin Clunes’s Doc Martin, and the ITV thriller Black Work will debut on November 2.

As far as what the future holds for Acorn TV, Graham says, “We’ll be radically expanding the number of platforms on which we’re available and growing our content pipeline, and we’re working hard to increase our release cadence as well, so our members can look forward to new exclusive content on a weekly basis.”