Listen to the Story
Have you heard of DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Maybe you heard the acronym IDEA instead – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action? If not, it is time to google.
Companies around the world are finding ways to reduce inequalities in the workplace.
DEI or IDEA represents action/strategy in that direction. “Reduce Inequality” is UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 10 (SDG 10) and was the theme for the MIP SDG Award of 2021, an award that is “presented to media companies that make a difference.” A+E Networks President Paul Buccieri was presented with this award.
This article looks at the DEI-specific Content Strategy of A+E Networks that led to this success.
About A+E Networks
“Life, Magnified” these two words on the home page of the company website quickly summarize the years of content evolution, thought, and innovation represented byA+E Networks®, a joint venture with Hearst Communications and Disney–ABC Television Group, a unit of The Walt Disney Company.
This brand positioning signifies legacy. But, with legacy comes the responsibility of working towards a greater good, which is the area of focus for the company and its brands’ current and future growth.
The networks portfolio of brands includes The HISTORY® Channel, Lifetime®, FYI,™, Vice TV, LMN™, A&E®, and BIOGRAPHY®. The network has been around since 1983 and is “committed to building an inclusive and high-impact culture that inspires creativity, collaboration, coordination, accountability, and trust.”
DEI based Content Strategy for A Change
A+E Networks is in the business of storytelling, and it uses its content series and outreach to tell powerful and transforming stories. The overall DEI based content strategy of the network varies from brand to brand, and it would require a series of its own to explain that strategy. Therefore, this article will focus only on the Content Strategy devised to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Women Centric Content
Lifetime has emerged as the women-centric brand within the network’s portfolio. In 2015, A+E Network’s brand, Lifetime, started an initiative called Broader Focus. It was designed to provide women with more opportunities to write, develop, produce and direct content for the network.
The initiative has elevated Lifetime to an industry leader where 82% of writers, 78% of directors, and 67% of producers are women. In addition, the project is getting stronger and bolder, providing more and more opportunities to women in prominent roles behind the camera.
Lifetime also produced the documentary – Surviving R Kelly – that sparked global conversations. Its season one is available on Netflix. It details the sexual abuse allegations against American singer Robert “R.” Kelly, who denied those accusations. The documentary brought forth several victims. As a result, Kelly faces a total of 22 federal counts, including child pornography, kidnapping, and forced labor. He is currently incarcerated at Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago, and his federal trial is set for August 2021 in Brooklyn.
The conversations generated by this documentary gave self-confidence to American women in general that they can raise voice against sexual exploitation even if it is against a rich and famous public figure.
The theme of women empowerment is strategically weaved into every series or one time specials developed by Lifetime.
Social Impact Content
In August 2020, A+E launched “Voices Magnified“. In the words of Rob Sharenow, president of programming at A+E Networks, it is a “campaign to elevate the stories of those pursuing solutions to the critical issues of our time”.
The first programming special to originate as a part of this series is “Voices Magnified: Policing in America.” The special episode examines what it will take to transform the way Americans police their streets so people of all races can feel safe and respected by those who are charged with protecting them.
Beyond the special episode, the series presents short-form stories that spotlight a wide range of people working towards bringing transformative changes to their communities. These conversations bring a tone of urgency, demand social justice, and push governments to listen and adapt.
One of the featured stories was of Opal Lee, a 94-year-old black activist and retired educator who campaigned to make Juneteenth (June 19) a holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. It was a big win for Opal Lee when US President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a National Holiday in the US.
As part of the “Voices Magnified” campaign, A&E also supports non-profit organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the George Perry Floyd, Jr. Scholarship for Racial and Social Justice at Santa Monica College. In addition, the network supports the National Women’s Law Center in its efforts to use the law to change the culture and drive solutions toward gender equity.
Beyond the series and specials, A+E Network runs a podcast, “The Table is Ours”. It focuses on sharing stories of black people in every industry in America and how they have worked hard to make a change and forge new paths.
The approach, the content, the struggles, and the need to achieve DEI are constantly communicated through these properties crafted as a part of a thought-through strategy.
Beyond its own initiatives, A+E Networks partners with other media groups to create momentum for conversations and efforts dedicated to Inclusion.
In May 2021, Lifetime presented Variety’s Power of Women The Comedians, a one-hour special show. Variety’s “Power of Women” 2021 honours six extraordinary creative leaders. They are Mindy Kaling, Maya Rudolph, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sofía Vergara, Michaela Coel, and Kate McKinnon, women who use laughter to make serious points.
In addition to showcasing the incredible work of the honorees, the special also celebrated the life of the comedic icon Gilda Radner and the charitable foundation for cancer patients and their families named after the late legend – Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit.
In the past, A+E Networks also collaborated with MIPCOM as founding partners of the MIPCOM Women in Global Entertainment Power Lunch, and the MIPCOM Diversify TV Excellence Awards.
A+E Networks and its brands have a stronghold in the American market. Understanding the needs of evolving America is at the forefront of all conversations, and A+E stays ahead in the game. It is not only incorporating the change in its business strategy (not covered here) but is also using its content to reach the audience, educate them, help them view different perspectives, create change where needed and bring everyone together for a better life.
What brands and content creators can learn?
A+E Network’s content strategy gives a few clear lessons that content creators can focus on.
- Understand the nation, the population, the sentiments of the market you are in.
- Use changemakers from within the communities to spread the word for critical issues that need attention.
- Ask challenging questions because you can.
- Share your efforts and rationale opinions.
- Find the right partners for effective collaborations.
You can read the A+E Network’s Diversity Report for 2021 here.
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