E! exec pitches branding at Casbaa

Harbert chats about attracting younger auds

HONG KONG — It’s all about branding.

This was the message E! Networks president-CEO Ted Harbert tried to hammer home during his talk at the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia confab (Casbaa).

Young people in particular are locating the brands they like “and they just tune in and they’re counting on the fact they’ll see something they like,” he said.

If you’re a non-branded service, such as NBC or ABC, it doesn’t stand for anything, Harbert said. It could be “The West Wing” one period and people eating bugs on “Fear Factor” the next, he added. “General entertainment … is not the future” because it survives only from hit show to hit show.

One of the problems at the networks is they spend a lot of money on programs and have fewer viewers. Also, “appointment viewing” doesn’t fit into everyone’s schedule, he said.

E! Networks, on the other hand, repeats its shows throughout the week, meaning if viewers miss something the first time, they’ll catch it the second or third time it airs. It’s a delicate balance between increased viewing opportunities and too many repeats, he said.

E! Networks produces 1,000 hours a year of original programming.

Harbert would like to get the E! Networks Intl. feed, which launched in Asia three years ago, into China and India, but has hit regulatory problems.

For now, individual channels are being sold to those territories, which provides a good entry point, he said. For a launch, E! Networks probably will need to look for a partner, he added.

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