Katherine Pope knows her way around content. After two years as head of Charter Communications’s Spectrum Originals, Pope has been integral in the successful launch of the service, attracting top talent and producing an eclectic array of shows. Fox revealed that it will air Spectrum series L.A’s Finest in primetime this fall. Pope brought a strong resume to Charter, helping to develop iconic shows like The Office and 30 Rock over a decade at NBC and NBCUniversal Television, where she served as executive VP of the network and studio president, leaving in 2009 to create the television unit at Chernin Entertainment. Prior to joining Charter in January 2018, she launched Studio 8’s independent television unit. Pope took some time out to answer a few questions from senior content producer, finance Mike Farrell.
How are you managing in the lockdown? Well, predominantly my family, friends and colleagues are healthy and safe, so I feel very lucky. Though all of our day-to-day lives have, like most people’s, been upended, our business has been orienting to the new normal. Production on several of our shows had wrapped prior to the lockdown, and our primary focus at the moment is preparing to launch the second season of L.A.’s Finest on June 8. We are basically focusing on development, launch and post for our shows, since production is paused for the time being. There is plenty to do, but it’s not the same without being able to shoot.
Has the pandemic had any impact on any new shows you had planned? We were prepping a few new series that were scheduled to start shooting later this year. I can’t say how these events will impact our slate going forward. I wish I could … I know all of us find this uncertainty unsettling. But the most important thing is that when we come back to production, we do so thoughtfully and with safety as our North Star. In the interim, we have been focusing on getting ahead with scripts, exploring casting, getting more deeply into tone and look discussions and looking at every production scenario under the sun, so we will be able to hit the ground running as soon as we are able. I’m really looking forward to that day. I plan to hit the ground sprinting.
Early on, the idea was to release a couple of new originals each year. Is that still the plan? Yes, this is still the plan. We take a portfolio approach: We are trying to develop shows that appeal to different segments of our subscriber base. It’s been really fun to learn what our subscribers like to watch — who is watching which show and when and how quickly. If you look at what we have on the platform today, there isn’t one type of show. We aren’t looking for every show to be loved by every subscriber, I think that often takes a toll on authenticity and specificity.
How has viewership been at Spectrum Originals? We have seen increases in our viewership. I hope we’re helping entertain people who are homebound. We’re also continuing to see really strong completion rates for our shows. Manhunt: Deadly Games in particular has incredible completion numbers. Essentially, if you watch the first episode, you will watch all of them. It’s 10 hours total, and a huge majority of people are watching the whole season in 24 hours!
Does Charter see original programming mostly as a retention tool? Our foremost goal is to differentiate our video product and drive subscriber retention by offering premium original series exclusively to Spectrum video subscribers on-demand and ad-free. ... For us, it’s a simple proposition: the more value we can pack into our existing video subscription (at no additional charge) that subscribers can’t get anywhere else, the more likely they are to stay with us.
All-time favorite show? I hate this question because there are too many! But, dagger to the throat, I would say The Americans will always have my heart.
Favorite podcast? The Daily
Destination on your bucket list? Anywhere sounds pretty great.
Favorite app? Smoked salmon gravlax. Kidding. It used to be Waze, but, you know.
Book on your nightstand? A few novels I’ve read recently that I would recommend are Sing Unburied Sing, Pachinko,Long Bright River — I love detective novels.