AMC Puts Originals In New Package for Sponsors

Mob Week movie event coming to network 5/02/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

AMC is more than just Mad Men. The
cable network, not so long ago known for
running old movies with no commercials,
now boasts a growing roster of award-winning original
series—including Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead
and The Killing—that would make Don Draper proud.

With scripted series scheduled to air in every quarter,
Scott Collins, executive VP of ad sales for Rainbow
Media’s AMC and WEtv, says that’s led to a change in
the network’s approach to the upfront this year.

“As ratings of broadcast shows go down—erosion,
as they say—a lot of top-tier cable has taken its place
because of the quality of the scripts,” Collins says. “I
feel our quality even surpasses broadcast when you
consider the response from critics. We have earned
being in that consideration set for broadcast-prime

AMC used to bundle its original shows with its movies
to boost the average ad prices it got for its primetime
programming. Now it will allow advertisers to
buy its originals only.

“The CPMs that our originals command
are far higher than our regular [schedule],
but I would say they’re approaching broadcast
CPMs,” Collins says. “You can’t go and
buy another Mad Men. You can’t go and buy
another Walking Dead.”

AMC also used to require that sponsors of
its originals buy spots in all of the episodes
of a series. This year, it will offer what it
calls “bursts” separately. Bursts comprise an
original episode and all of its reruns on the
network, with the rating based on cumulative

“We want to be more things to more people,
and we’re having a lot more interest in
our originals especially in light of people
saying they’re worried about the NFL strike,” Collins
says. “Who knows what will happen, but we’re part,
people are telling me, of possible contingency plans.”

Other Originals Stand in for Delayed ‘Men’

Season five of Mad Men was pushed back til next
year because of a contract dispute with creator Matt
Weiner. Some ad time had been sold in last year’s upfront.
But Collins says “with the wealth of originals that
we have, we were able to accommodate that inventory”
without refunding money to advertisers.

This season, AMC also is adding original non-scripted
shows to its lineup with Inside DHS, about the Department
of Homeland Security, and The Pitch, about
ad agencies making new-business presentations.

Marc Morse, senior VP for national broadcast at media
buyer RJ Palmer, says AMC has enough quality
shows to legitimately pitch itself as a network replacement
option. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to
position themselves the way a USA does or a Turner
does as far as dollar volume, but they certainly could
make that kind of a pitch and convince people to say,
‘let’s do some more business with AMC.’ They have a
lot of original programs,” Morse says.

Last year AMC ranked 23rd among all ad-supported
cable networks in adults 18-49. In ad revenue, it
ranked 26th at $289 million, up 16% from 2009, according
to SNL Kagan,

AMC‘s upfront slogan is “the most original programs
on TV,” meaning not that it has the most shows, but
that its shows are the most distinctive. Morse sees value
in that approach.

The upcoming drama Hell on Wheels, which focuses
on a former Confederate soldier working on the
transcontinental railroad, could fill that bill. “Hell on
, because it looks so much different than what’s
out there, and if they promote it the right way, could
do well,” Morse says.

AMC still programs a lot of movies, and it’s looking
for new ways to sell them. One approach is creating
a new event, Mob Week, which Collins sees as his
network’s Shark Week. Mob Week will feature films
like Goodfellas, Casino and the Godfather trilogy, which
AMC has exclusive rights to for the next nine years.

Though gangster films would hardly seem like an
advertiser-friendly environment, Collins says he gets
few objections. “Other networks have big movies and
big blockbusters and newly released movies, but we
get tremendous value from our viewers in super-serving
their favorites. And I think because they love these
so much, there’s little negativity from clients,” he says.

The network is also running stunts called Can’t Get
Enough, in which it runs the same movie, night after
night, for a week. It will do 14 or 15 of them this year.
“It’s like taking our movies and making an event out
if it,” Collins says. It increases the movie’s reach because
different people will watch on a Thursday than
on a Friday, but they’re from the same demographic
that the movie appeals to. A sponsor can present the
movie and participate in short-form interstitials and
vignettes. “Advertiser response has been phenomenal,”
Collins says.

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