Exec Q & A: Coleman Breland

5 Jun 2017 - By TW Staff

This article originally appeared on the Turner blog.

President of Turner Content Distribution and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Coleman Breland, oversees the domestic distribution and marketing of Turner’s entire portfolio of domestic networks including TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, TCM and Cartoon Network. Coleman’s innovation and penchant for generating new revenue opportunities has elevated Turner’s distribution business for the last 20+ years. Additionally, Breland serves as president of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), where he is responsible for the oversight of new distribution opportunities, digital brand extensions, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer engagement opportunities.

We sat down with Coleman to discuss his distribution role as well as the launch of FilmStruck, the new streaming service for art house, indie, foreign and cult films from TCM and The Criterion Collection, and Turner’s first domestic direct-to-consumer offering.

Can you explain content distribution and why is it so important?

Sure — and the answer today is different than a decade or so ago. Previously, the model of distribution was relatively simplistic for television. Broadcast and cable networks would aggregate shows — perhaps a combination of originals and acquired programming — brand the entity and off to the races we went. Scheduling (and therefore viewing patterns) were mostly determined by the network. Inside media content companies, the responsibility of getting the broadest carriage of networks was the purview of distribution divisions like Turner Content Distribution. Negotiations (often intense and colorful) ensued and networks were packaged together by cable, satellite and telcos and made available to the viewers. DVR’s and VOD came along and viewers took the first steps to having more flexibility in the viewing of content. Now, new platforms, navigation, and time-shifted viewing have created new behaviors and expectations from viewers. You hear our chairman, John Martin, speak about serving fans, not viewers. Beautifully said because fans, if you serve them what they want, when and how they want it, have a deeper allegiance to our content. So now distribution is about getting 10 linear brands distributed across a much more dimensional and broader landscape — the goal being to secure carriage of our brands and shows on every device and every platform to monetize the content.

It seems like technology is at the forefront of shifting our entire industry…

Yes, and at its core, its driving new, and in many ways, irrevocable content consumption behaviors.

How is technology specifically impacting the way content is distributed?

Technology always disrupts and alters the game. Look at the base level — smartphone video cameras have turned individuals into their own content creators. People who are not video journalists capture newsworthy footage daily. Even my kids have YouTube channels and Instagram followers. Content flows into our life in such a myriad of ways — grab a news clip here, a sports highlight there. Binge a series. Catch a show live because you can’t wait. On the professional level, you have growing list of new content aggregators and creators which means more competition…or does it mean more opportunity for distribution? Both actually. And the only constant is the clock — 24 hours in a day. And in that time frame, people can choose to do many things with a screen, so we have to be at our best at all times. We want our content — be that networks, shows, clips, talent or other connecting-with-fan experiences — distributed everywhere possible. Technology creates challenges because it alters behaviors, but it also creates excellent opportunities to delight the fans. Good content wins the day.

Where do you think technology and the industry will be in the next five to 10 years?

Given the way the marketplace is spinning, you’ve got to constantly be thinking about how the fans today will quickly evolve and demand something new from us. We’ll see more personalized experiences, fans going deeper with the content and immerse themselves in different ways. Augmented reality will bear fruit for certain types of content. Gaming and commerce with more easily infuse with content. Social recommendation and community will weigh in heavily on the success of shows.

Speaking of the impact of technology and how content is distributed, can you tell us about FilmStruck?

Let’s start with the core — I believe TCM is art in motion. No one comes close to understanding and perfecting the beauty of curating classic movies like TCM. It’s an exquisite time machine that takes the fan to another decade and place while often unveiling the events that went into making the movie possible (or almost not possible), with an occasional whisper of intimate secrets that fans may never have heard before. Quite a skill set and talent among the TCMers. So, wanting to expand the film experience, TCM looked at the market place and saw an underserved market for fans of art house film — edgy, eclectic, indie, foreign and cult films. But this time, instead of launching a cable network, TCM took the skills and sensibility that charmed TCM fans, aimed it at a different and younger demographic and launched an incredible library of art house films direct-to-consumer under the brand FilmStruck. Like TCM, it is a rich, beautiful curated experience. And looking at this dimensionally, FilmStruck is more than content, it is our push forward technologically to own the end-to-end experience for the fan.

We have to ask you this: What do you watch?

While I have a screen on all day in the office, at home, it’s funny — for the most part, I actually watch what my kids watch. Sorta my own little lab. I soak in how they determine what’s worthy, when they binge, how they and if they interact. I’ve seen my son with three screens going during an NBA game — all somehow related to the game, may be social, stats or playing an NBA video game at the same time. Wild…

Learn more about Filmstruck.