After over ten years with National Geographic Channel, Matt Taylor, channel editor at National Geographic Iberia, Central & Eastern Europe, explains in an interview to Wall-Street, what are the daily challenges a programming director faces and what exactly defines a “successful documentary”.
Wall-Street: Where have you worked before National Geographic and why have you decided to join this team?

Matt Taylor: I have worked in National Geographic Channel for most of my professional career. I formed a strong base in free-to-air when I entered the industry and moved over to National Geographic after a few years while the channel was still in its infancy. I saw it as a great opportunity to grow with a new channel and to explore the potential of such a renowned brand.

Wall-Street: In 10 years of activity which was the biggest challenge for you? How about the most difficult one?

Matt Taylor: The documentary genre is constantly evolving which is very appealing but also an enormous challenge. You are always trying to look for the most original and appealing product to satisfy the ever present curiosity of the viewer. This may seem obvious given the success of our documentaries but this success can be fleeting so the challenge is to find new stories that will captivate the interest of the viewer.

Wall-Street: What is the most difficult aspect of your daily activity?

Matt Taylor:
I’m really passionate about my work therefore there are no hard tasks. However administrative issues, which everyone has to deal with no matter that job they have, are never fun.

Wall-Street: How does a normal working day look like?

Matt Taylor:
A normal working day may be a typical day like many people experience around the world however it may take me to the jungles of South America, the plains in Africa or to the far reaches of our galaxy. I work with an amazing group of people and with fascinating topics so a normal working day is never boring.

Wall-Street: What aspects do you consider when scheduling the National Geographic’s programs?

Matt Taylor:
The quality of the production as well as the public’s interest in the content and how this fits in with the style of the channel and viewing habits of the consumer.

Wall-Street: How do you choose the documentaries that go on TV?

Matt Taylor:
This is a complex process that takes place in our headquarters in Washington. Our expert team works closely with local producers and production companies from around the world to develop our programming lineup.

Wall-Street: What is in your opinion the main responsibility for a programming director and what mistakes do programming directors often make?

Matt Taylor:
The main responsibility is to try to select the best content and to deliver this content to the viewer at a time that is most appropriate. Mistakes happen when you do not fully research your audience and their viewing patterns. The job encourages you to be intuitive however this has to be complemented with qualitative and quantitative research. Never try to second guess your audience.

Wall-Street: How much time do you spend just watching documentaries?

Matt Taylor:
This is difficult to say. I do not know how many hours per day but I do watch all the documentaries before they premiere on the channel. Sometimes I will take a copy home and watch it at the time I plan to air it in order to assess if it is the right time for a particular series or one-off documentary.

Wall-Street: Which are the most interesting part in programming and the most boring one?

Matt Taylor:
Working for such an amazing brand and learning so much about the world around us is definitely the most interesting part of the job. Assigning so many interesting programs to a workable and successful schedule is very satisfying. As I mentioned before, the administrative process would have to be the least interesting.

Wall-Street: How do you know when a documentary is going to be a success?

Matt Taylor:
What will be the next big thing is the million dollar question. This is the hardest and most challenging aspect of the TV industry and it’s something that is not easily achieved. Having a good sense of the viewing trends and extrapolating this into upcoming documentaries is generally the recipe for success. Applying solid production techniques and delivering a strong product ensures that half the battle is already won.

Wall-Street: Have you changed something in the way you make the programming strategy since the financial crisis started?

Matt Taylor:
No, we continue working in the same way: looking for that magical combination between strong production qualities and amazing stories.

Wall-Street: How often do you decide to change the programming strategy and what are the reasons underlying it?

Matt Taylor:
We try to deliver a consistent programming strategy without making too many changes. Chopping and changing the programming strategy only makes it harder for our audience to follow our message. When we do decide to introduce changes it is generally to improve areas of the schedule that are waning in popularity.

Wall-Street: What qualities a programming director must have?

Matt Taylor:
A good programming director needs to have a strong analytical approach to his or her work as well as a creative side to enable a well balanced programming strategy.

Wall-Street: What is the most difficult market where National Geographic is present?

Matt Taylor:
We are very happy with the development and the increasing distribution of NGC and the rest of its brands (Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Music, National Geographic HD, Nat Geo Adventure…) worldwide. Happily, there’s no an atypical market. After more than 12 years of activity, when the channel was first launched in 5 territories around the world, we have realized there is a global audience for our programs, an audience that share the same curiosity about a world in permanent change.

Wall-Street: How difficult was for a TV station such as National Geographic to impose in the TV industry?

Matt Taylor:
The competition on television is becoming harder and harder with so many channels in all markets. The offer is so amazing that sometimes it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd. Given so, the main approach we have for keeping the viewers’ attention is to continue to reinforce our style of high quality productions that focus on amazing stories of exploration, adventure, new technologies, etc. I see National Geographic’s TV brands as an alternative to traditional TV content, a window to the world and a chance to see something that you would not be able to see on any other channel.

Wall-Street: How would you describe the current TV landscape? What are the main challenges that the industry is facing?

Matt Taylor:
The audiovisual industry is changing very fast. The launch of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) channels, channels for mobile, the increase of the Internet, etc., are modifying our sector around the world, but I am optimistic. The arrive of new operators means we are going to have more opportunities for the distribution of our channels not only by traditional TV means but in other sectors that could drive our brands as we have never known before.

Wall-Street: How did the financial crisis affect National Geographic Channel? What strategy did you adopt to weather crisis?

Matt Taylor:
It’s too soon to have an opinion about how the crisis is going to affect the global TV marketplace. We need to wait and see what happens. At the same time we are living the global crisis at all levels of the economy, we are also immersed in the changing landscape of the audiovisual industry as described in the previous question. As I said before, I see good opportunities in the future with the new diversity of platforms and I hope everything can begin to consolidate as soon as we perceive the first signs of recuperation.

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Despre autor este un cotidian de business fondat în 2005, parte a grupului InternetCorp, unul dintre cei mai mari jucători din industria românească de publishing online.Pe parcursul celor peste 15 ani de prezență pe piața media, ne-am propus să fim o sursă de inspirație pentru mediul de business, dar și un canal de educație pentru pentru celelalte categorii de public interesate de zona economico-financiară.În plus, are o experiență de 10 ani în organizarea de evenimente B2B, timp în care a susținut peste 100 de conferințe pe domenii precum Ecommerce, banking, retail, pharma&sănătate sau imobiliare. Astfel, am reușit să avem o acoperire completă - online și offline - pentru tot ce înseamnă business-ul de calitate.

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