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A+E Networks EMEA sets director of streaming and launches on Freevee

Adrian Pilkington, Chief Operating Officer

Adrian Pilkington

Ex-Disney and Apple exec Alistair Upham to oversee SVoD, FAST, YouTube and Amazon channel businesses.

A+E Networks EMEA has restructured its digital team and partnered with Amazon Freevee on a suite of FAST channels as part of a push to grow its streaming and online operations, Broadcast can reveal.

Alistair Upham has become the pay-TV specialist’s inaugural director of streaming at A+E, having been contracted to prepare for the launch of its SVoD service Crime + Investigation Play as a direct-to-consumer proposition last September.

Upham brings more than 15 years’ streaming and home entertainment experience to the Hearst and Sky-owned company, having previously worked at Disney+, Apple and streaming aggregator Struum in content strategy, operations, and product development roles. He reports to Julie Mitchelmore, vice-president of digital.

Upham’s appointment comes as A+E networks EMEA launches three FAST channels on Amazon’s rapidly expanding AVoD service Freevee this week.

Freevee now carries true crime-focused channel Inside Crime UK, supernatural-centred Mystery TV and historical offering World War TV on its platform, bringing programming from A+E content library across the three genres.

Inside Crime features titles including Crimes That Shook Britain, Britain’s Darkest Taboos and What the Killer Did Next.

Mystery TV will feature Weird or What? With William Shatner, Top Secret UFO Projects Declassified and Strangest Things, while World War TV will stream WW2 Treasure Hunters featuring Suggs and detectorist Stephen Taylor, Rise and Fall: The Turning Points of WW2, Architects of Darkness, and Hitler’s Gold.

Scaling Up

Speaking to Broadcast ahead of the launch, A+E networks EMEA chief operating officer Adrian Pilkington said the company is looking to capitalise on “ really encouraging “ performance on Paramount’s AVoD service Pluto TV towards the end of 2022. A+E Networks partnered with cloud dervices and AVoD and FAST delivery company Amagi to allow “ more flexibility “ to launch on further  platforms.

The number of views on Pluto just seemed to catch fire, and we started thinking: we’ve probably got something here, “ Pilkington said. “ With Freevee, we’re expanding onto other known and trusted platforms and we’re looking to scale up. We are prepared to give it a good crack.”

Pilkington noted that A+E’s streaming forays, including C+I Play, FAST and its existing YouTube and Amazon Channels businesses – which will fall under Upham’s responsibilities and – will not be at the expense of its flagship linear businesses: the pay-TV channels Sky History and Crime + Investigation and free-to-air channel Blaze.

Our engine is the quality of our pay-TV brands, investing in local content, having a strong pipeline from A+E Networks US and our acquisitions. “ he said. But diversifying into digital revenues is really important. If you look at a lot of other broadcasters and platforms, they are struggling with revenue gaps because they are going so fast into their [SVoD] transformation they’re leaving a vacuum behind.”

Pilkington said phase one of A+E’s FAST expansion will assess which channels are working on Freevee, which content is proving sticky and then launching on further platforms. Down the line, he anticipates discussions with the board about “ depth of content “ and investing in programming to bolster A+E library.

“This is a different skillset, 2 he said. “The skillset involved in putting a channel together that works, will become quite interesting. I think the sophistication around channel programming, branding and curation will develop.”

Meanwhile, A+E has appointed Greta Gedrimaite and Richard Pearson to work under Upham as heads of streaming for partner management and platforms & product, respectively.

Elsewhere, former Amazon Prime Video buyer and BritBox UK managing editor Amy Jones has joined in a consultancy capacity for the programming department as director of portfolio planning strategy, reporting into vice-president of programming dan Korn.


Article published by John Elmes, Broadcast