A+E Networks programming spans the globe with popular and culturally relevant brands that are home to hits like Pawn Stars, Intervention, Curse of Oak Island, and Biography. In addition to 1,600 hours of programming, A+E Networks produces original short- and long-form content, podcasts and thousands of associated marketing materials annually. Collaboration isn’t an afterthought — it’s mission-critical.
In 2018, A+E Networks committed to finding new ways for departments to collaborate, communicate, and stay nimble. Their business was growing in a number of different areas and they knew they had to streamline their workflows to keep moving ahead efficiently. The company faced an incredibly daunting landscape: hundreds of people and processes across departments create assets, serving them to a dizzying array of distribution channels and platforms. The hunger for great content was always growing, with new international opportunities opening up every day. And in a continually evolving industry, the company had to think beyond traditional collaboration tools to keep everything on track.
Hamstrung by inflexible tools
A+E Networks had no common workflow system or central source of truth between the programming and marketing departments, making asset creation, scheduling, distribution, and tracking complicated and disorganized. Moreover, teams were saddled with an inflexible legacy asset management system that did not meet their current business needs.
There was no system for managing and prioritizing contracts, putting revenue at risk because deals took too long. On top of that, adding new projects or adjusting workflows required extensive planning and hard-coding: even the smallest change took weeks or months to make.
Customized workflows for every team
Jennifer Pierce, director of marketing production at A+E Networks, was obsessed with improving collaboration amongst teams. Using Airtable’s low-code software creation platform, she could link marketing assets to their associated programs in one central location, exactly the way A+E Networks needed, and in a way that made sense to their employees. “When I started digging into Airtable, I got excited about the possibilities,” Pierce says. “I saw that it could integrate into our workflow, rather than making us adapt our workflow to Airtable.”
It could integrate into our workflow, rather than making us adapt our workflow to Airtable.
Airtable quickly grew to do more than linking marketing assets to programming — it was becoming a centralized platform utilized company-wide. For the next four months, Airtable’s Customer Success Manager embedded with 12 different teams at the organization, helping them tailor the platform to their needs. They created a project tracker and management system for the marketing team, giving them clear oversight over assets.
They also created a contract tracker that connected the legal, finance, and programming departments so they can execute on distribution deals faster. And in the process, they took advantage of the wealth of features Airtable offers, like linked records, API & third-party integrations, personal views and filters, reporting and dashboards, point and click design, notifications, attachments, and comments.
Michael Alfieri, senior production manager at A+E Networks, was frequently amazed to see how quickly they could build on Airtable, compared to what would take months in the old system.
“Our CSM would sometimes create a solution in a meeting. We’d say, ‘Great, how long will that take to build?’” he laughs. “And she’d say, ‘It’s built. I just built it.’”
Over Labor Day weekend, 2018, Pierce and her team moved operations for all of the portfolio’s brands to Airtable so the departments would be ready to hit the ground running when they came back on Tuesday. The work they’d put into planning made for a seamless transition; Airtable’s multitude of views allowed employees to create an environment that felt instantly familiar. They could pick right back up where they left off in their work before the long weekend.
What’s next for Airtable and A+E
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America, A+E Networks was prepared. The connections enabled by Airtable made it easy for them to move to a remote workforce without skipping a beat. Alfieri and his team even used Airtable to create their moving plan, assessing which equipment needed to be moved on the same day A+E Networks made the call to send employees home.
Every day, they’re finding new ways to incorporate Airtable into their workflow. Recently, they’ve started building meeting agendas and creative reviews in Airtable so people who can’t attend meetings will have all the information they need, whenever they’re ready. A+E Networks continues to move ahead faster than ever while helping employees through the challenges of the moment — all while continuing to evolve to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.