Want CNN Vision to have its own identity: Ellana Lee, CNN International

Ellana Lee, Head, CNN Vision, and SVP and Managing Editor of CNN International in APAC, on why brands want to work with them and the need to now explore newer grounds

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Nov 29, 2018 8:51 AM Updated: Nov 29, 2018 8:51 AM
ellana lee

Just a look at the website of CNN Vision and one cannot miss the compelling content, unique storytelling and state of-the-art production capabilities. Tapping into the world of travel, sports, business, music, art and style, the two-year old content arm of CNN operates across eight production hubs- Hong Kong, London, Abu Dhabi, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and Miami.

It recently created more than 1300 hours of television for the CNN network, a 30 per cent increase from the previous year. What’s interesting is that unlike other competitors who have channels dedicated to travel, lifestyle, sports and music, CNN Vision produces content in the form of documentaries and specials for just one channel, CNN International.

When it comes to India it has produced interesting content delving into  travel,  wellness, dance forms, culture and architecture.

Ellana Lee, Head, CNN Vision and Senior Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN International in APAC, shares how she is taking on the world of Instagram with CNN Vision. She is excited to branch out and opening it to third party partnerships in India.  Excerpts:

Creating a brand identity different from CNN International and at the same time contributing to it, how challenging is it to manage the teams?

To put it all under one channel means everything has to meet the standard of CNN International. This means that the quality of journalism and storytelling, the international reach we have allows us access. This is because we have the scale.

We have separate teams for daily news and CNN Vision around the world. We are able to use our global footprint and find authentic stories on ground.  That’s really the key. So we mirror our news gathering operation at the same place as well. Our standard and quality of journalism practises have to be intact so our CNN Vision journalist is able to help out when there is a major breaking news in different regions. This is because it’s the same team under CNN International.

CNN Newsroom is one cohesive place. Over there you will have a team dedicated to CNN Vision, news gathering team, programming, CNN Business, CNN Style, etc. But we all coexist. So we can all leverage each other’s expertise. That’s important. So we are able to work and coexist together.

What’s the philosophy while working with brands?

We create content that we want to for the channel. Commercial team is able to leverage and sell that. Brands work with us because they trust our storytelling and want to be associated with us.

What’s the current plan with CNN Vision?

Our customer has always been traditionally CNN. But we are now branching out. Before we didn’t do that because we didn’t feel the need. Now we are exploring.

In the future we would like to partner with key corporations not only in India but other countries as well and create content for that market. We have just started. Earlier we existed as features within CNN. We were rebranded to CNN Vision to two years back.

Since we are now starting in this new business we need to go out and market it. We are interacting with other creative production houses and broadcasters who are hungry for content.

I want to take it out there because there is so much demand for good quality content. When we are going out to the market to have these conversations they like the fact that we are international with a large footprint, incredibly diversified content and the kind of access we have to major storytellers.  

Which social platform have you entered recently?

We entered Instagram less than 12 months back. Each hub has a person dedicated to it. We had to really understand what makes it successful. Then when IGTV came out we found out that by just putting a 22-minute content won't make it successful. We looked at all the content that we created and chose the most apt video. For instance we chose a Jessica Alba interview we did for TalkAsia because we thought the audience will sit through her transition to a business woman. Even that was seven minutes. We are trying to experiment.

The important thing is we are not going to experiment all at once at every single platform. We have to be disciplined.

Eventually we will go into Facebook and YouTube. But each platform requires significant investment and understanding to be successful.

What has been your key learning from Instagram?

You have to respect the Instagram consumer. Whichever platform you are on, the consumer has a different characteristic of how and why they come to the platform.

We used to have half hour programs on our digital website. We took a decision to take it off because the person on the digital side is not going to sit through the entire thing. Instead we have to recreate it in a way that it can be easily consumed.  If you are on YouTube you shouldn’t go beyond a minute and half.

I think the industry is figuring out what’s the best way to hook you in terms of advertising.

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