The Hot Seat: Shaun James, GM, XYZnetworks

Published in The Music Network


You left Warner Music seven years ago. What evolution have you seen in the label community over that time?

Certainly, the major labels have had to radically restructure their businesses. But labels are getting better and smarter at operating within the new paradigm. I don’t think you’ll find anyone, anywhere holding their hand up and saying, ‘digital sales has filled the hole. But it’s an ongoing process. By the nature of the business, it’s at the forefront of trends. That’s going to continue. And it’s probably going to accelerate, as we’re now moving into the cloud computing and digital storage. All those things are affecting not just music labels but broadcasters and a lot of media businesses.

Would you ever go back to the labels biz?

You never say never. Everything’s an evolution. We’ve certainly got some great challenges in front of us at the moment. Subscription TV is a vibrant place and it’s an area of the business which is very much at the forefront of technology. There’s a number of things coming into our world which will be very exciting over the next 12 months.

What are some of those exciting prospects?

Without giving anything away, it’s more the expansion into (new platforms). Foxtel has a number of IQ sets that are IPTV-capable and have a return path over the Internet. And there’s a number of technological developments coming along that will make the viewing experience for our subscribers even more engaging.

Is there scope to have a label within your group?

We’ve looked at it, but you have to be very careful about defining what business you’re in. We don’t see it as core to the business we’re in. But we are looking at the different ways that the content we create can be used and exported over a multitude of platforms.

You must have watched with some interest the sale of Warner Music Group?

It’s one from leftfield. But obviously (new owner Len Blavatnik) has run a number of successful businesses in a number of industries. He’s come into it on the basis that he can make a dollar rather than lose a dollar.

And some folks think he’ll bid for EMI and merge the two.

Who knows? There’s been ongoing speculation since the time I was at Warners about a Warner- EMI tie-up, a Warner-Bertelsmann tie- up. It’s a bit of a pastime in the industry. People love to speculate.

Are you hands-on with the programming at XYZ?

Absolutely. I love the fact we receive a whole slate of releases every week. I have daily conversations with our programming team, as I do with our production, our marketing, our sales team, our digital team. Part of what we need to do across the four brands (Channel V, V Hits, Max, Country Music Channel), which are all very distinct brands, is make sure that what we’re programming and what we’re outputting every day is as relevant and current as it can be to the respective target audiences.

How many clips come in each week?

It depends on labels’ release schedules. It might be a dozen one week, or 30.

The labels’ problems are well documented. I suspect YouTube is one of your industry’s greatest challenges.

You’re absolutely right. The market has increased and there are extra channels in the subscription-TV world. It’s a very cluttered space. We need to act as a trusted filter for the audience. We’ve seen a lot of consumer research that says many consumers are confused and in some cases intimidated by the sheer volume of choice. Trusted brands have a real role there in filtering and distilling this mass of content that’s available. It’s very much a two-way street. We want to engage with the audience and to the best of our ability we want to understand the audience and present programming options that are on-brand.

You’ve launched a new chart show. Why?

We looked around and no-one was really (doing it). We’re a video music channel, first and foremost, at Channel V. The music chart show is our attempt to put a stamp on it and say we’re the only broadcaster in Australia doing that. We take the information from a number of different areas. We think there’s a long- term future for a music video chart show. Our live 10.30am Saturday show The Riff on Channel V has been terrifically good for us. It’s building each week.

Labels in the U.S. are still bitter at allowing MTV to build a billion dollar industry on their backs without paying any fees. What’s the situation in Australia?

We’ve got broadcast arrangements in place with all the copyright owners. We recognise the value in copyright, and we recognise the fact that copyright owners need to be recompensed. There’s no doubt that our label and artist and management partners see the absolute promotional benefit in what we do. We also see the benefit in their content as well. We’ve got very strong relationships.

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