APTN’s new CEO on branching out and building up

MiC gets up-close and personal with Monika Ille, who wants to grow the profile of APTN while staying true to its cultural roots.

APTN has concluded its search for a new CEO, which began in April after long-serving CEO Jean La Rose announced his impending departure. La Rose will officially be succeeded by Monika Ille, who has been with the broadcaster for 16 years. She will step into her role in December, and currently serves as executive director of programming.

Today, MiC caught up with Ille to discuss her history with APTN and her vision for the network as it evolves. “We’re quite unique for Canada, because we’re mandatory carriage,” Ille explains. Although APTN does sell advertising across its TV network – and its radio network, which launched in 2017 – the majority of its revenue comes from cable subscription, which doesn’t always go as far as a network would like.

“We get 35 cents per subscriber per month, and unfortunately, those subscribers are going down,” says Ille. “We work with a really limited budget, but we make the most of it. And I think it’s important. TV still has a lot of credibility.”

APTN is transmitted to nearly 11 million Canadians. It has an average weekly reach of 405,000 people for primetime, and 823,000 weekly reach for the entire schedule run. Its monthly reach is one million for primetime and 1.9 million for the entire schedule.

But Ille doesn’t deny the changing trends in relation to television – cord-cutting and cord-shaving aren’t going anywhere, she says – so it’s time to look at building a model that’s poised for commercial growth.

“We have to find ways to monetize APTN beyond our current revenue stream. Jean La Rose has done a great job of launching [OTT service] Lumi, and we’ve launched our arms’ length distribution company as well as two radio stations in Toronto and Ottawa. Now we have to get all those business units to work together and do more cross-collaboration. There’s so much content out there in the ecosystem that’s accessible anytime, anywhere, so we need to be able to jump into that realm and be more accessible to all, at any time.”

Coming from a programming background, Ille says she is confident that APTN can appeal to more advertisers based on the quality of the content. Ille points to the critical success of Mohawk Girls, which she says resonated with non-Indigenous audiences as well. “Omni Television liked the topic so much that they took the third season and had it translated to Mandarin, because they knew the topic would fit with their audience.”

Universal storytelling and themes about topics like love, friendship and passions could make APTN an ideal partner for more clients, she says. Ille points to the culinary docu-series, Moosemeat and Marmalade, which brings together Indigenous bush cook Art Napoleon and British chef Dan Hayes on their cross-Canada cooking adventures. It’s a sponsor-friendly show, she says, because it represents the kind of content Canadians of all backgrounds love. “It’s just two people having fun together. It’s a great idea that can travel very far.”