Name: Christian Drobnyk
Title: Senior VP, programming, strategy and acquisitions, Lifetime, A+E Networks
Christian Drobnyk commissions and acquires programming for A+E Networks’ flagship female-skewed station, Lifetime. The channel has built up a reputation for its unscripted series, dramas and original movies, and has been rolling out internationally since it debuted in Canada in May 2012.
TBI: What is unique about the Lifetime channel and what should buyers know in advance?
CD: We’re a female-focused network that programmes original content in all three main genres: scripted series, unscripted series and original movies.
TBI: Should producers and distributors be seeking out acquisitions people at a local level or is buying handled centrally? Who are the key buyers within your team?
CD: Acquisitions related deals such as completed content deals, as well as coproduction deals, are handled by the Lifetime team in New York. The key buyers on my team are Meghan Hooper and Samantha DiPippo.
TBI: What’s the commissioning cycle like – are there times of year you are focused on ordering original series?
CD: Our original series teams are buying throughout the year.
TBI: What is the relationship between the US Lifetime and international Lifetime programming teams? Do you work together on projects?
CD: We see each other fairly regularly. We share information about what’s working and not working, and also hear about deals we’re all doing respectively. We work together on plenty of projects, but mostly from the perspective that we always try to engage our international team on potential interest and value as we’re doing content deals in the US.
Oh, and we loved Dance Mums in the UK so much that we’re running it in the US. That’s a virtuous circle of Lifetime’s hit US show Dance Moms leading to foreign versions that are so good we can buy them for the domestic market.
TBI: What is the model for acquiring content?
CD: We don’t have a single model. We do deals so that both sides walk away happy.
TBI: What do you want from the made-for-TV movie specials?
CD: We’re looking for original movies that help us attract a new and younger audience. Long-form is, at the same time, one of the most exciting and challenging genres that traditionally has attracted a 55+ female audience.
Over the past several years we’ve had great success breaking this mold by greenlighting movies and miniseries that elevate the genre creatively while also significantly lowering Lifetime’s median age.
TBI: What are you really looking for at the moment, is there a genre or specific type of programme you have on your shopping list or are there particular programming slots you are very focused on?
CD: We’re focused on primetime and looking for more entertainment-driven content versus, say, lifestyle or factual programming.
TBI: Which of the programming markets do you find the most productive?
CD: We always attend MIPCOM, MIPTV, NATPE and Realscreen. We’re also very happy to see people at our offices in New York.
TBI: What is the single most successful acquired show across your channels?
CD: So far, our acquired movies have probably performed the best.
TBI: What acquired shows will you launch in the next few weeks/months?
CD: We’re going to be premiering the UK versions of Wife Swap in the US very soon. We also have about ten acquired movies hitting in the next three months.
TBI: What types of on-demand rights do you require?
CD: We try to retain all VOD for our market. It’s an ongoing discussion we have on all of our content.
TBI: hat sorts of windows are you buying for?
CD: We’re flexible.
TBI: What is the key challenge facing you as buyer in today’s market?
CD: More competition means that quality has to be higher and concepts need to be more unique. It’s a good challenge for the business because it just means that all of us need to be more creative.