AMC Analysis


AMC transitioned from airing WALKING DEAD, a program that dominated its schedule and its ratings in March, to this month's MAD MEN, a show that draws a huge share of critical raves and kudos, but a relatively small share of audience. CableU takes a look at AMC's primetime ratings to gauge the impact.

The channel's name originally stood for "American Movie Classics," but since 2002, only the AMC initials have been used, as movies from all genres and eras began to fill the air. In 2007, AMC debuted the now iconic original series MAD MEN, followed in 2008 with BREAKING BAD, giving AMC a reputation on par with HBO and FX. Ratings success was achieved with THE WALKING DEAD, which launched in 2010. AMC Networks went public in 2011, putting financial pressure from shareholders into the mix. Since then there have been noticeable moves toward more commercially safe territory such as off-net acquisition CSI: MIAMI and the addition of competition reality to the mix. In 2012, AMC premiered four reality shows: INSIE THE DHS, THE PITCH, COMIC BOOK MEN and SMALL TOWN SECURITY. FREAKSHOW and IMMORTALIZED joined the line-up in 2013.

AMC is infamous for its highly serialized dramas that can be easily classified into an established genre, while also pushing the boundaries of the genre.  With its stellar reputation drawing top talent in the business, the development process is competitive, even by cable standards. A handful of programs are in the works for the upcoming season, each borrowing from a different classic movie or television genre, such as legal thrillers, detective dramas and westerns. There are also period dramas, ranging from Revolutionary War times to the silicon bubble ‘80s. Not to be pigeonholed, a TV version of the You Tube Channel’s ALL STAR CELEBRITY BOWLING is also on the table.

With just two nights of non-movie programming, AMC fills Monday through Wednesday with themed movie mini-weeks. On various weeks this month Monday through Wednesday nights hosted marathons of Action Week, Women We Love, Comedy Week and Crime Week.  Sunday and Thursday nights are home to original series. Thursdays feature a mix of reality programming supplemented with past seasons of Sunday night’s drama series or movies. Sunday nights rotate through  new seasons of AMC’s high-profile dramas, with THE WALKING DEAD finishing up in March, and MAD MEN following in April.

Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison /April 2013 vs. April 2012  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

APRIL 2013: AMC maintained its primetime audience vs. last year, finishing the month with bottom-line Monday - Sunday 8-11PM LSD ratings almost exactly where they were in April of 2012. Not so bad, considering the increasingly competitive television environment, but devastating when compared to last month. Numbers were 30% lower on households and 50% lower on demo vs. March, when WALKING DEAD was on the air.

WALKING DEAD ended its season as the best-rated program, broadcast or cable. It also dominated the AMC line-up from both a real-estate and ratings perspective. ll told, there were 38 hours of WALKING DEAD related programming in March, or 36% of the primetime schedule. Ratings were so dominant, those 36% of hours equaled over 75% of AMC’s 18-49 gross ratings for the month. The program pushed the whole network to a younger, male skew.

This month WALKING DEAD is gone, and MAD MEN is in its place. While MAD MEN started AMC on its successful original programming path, has received multiple awards, unparalleled reviews and fiercely devoted audiences, it was never a ratings hit. It quietly aired a two-hour season premiere at the beginning of the month, and then received just one primetime run per week. No water-cooler discussion show to follow, no marathons to bulk it up.

Ratings for MAD MEN were up vs. last year...+19% for men 25-54 and +10% for adults 25-54. The show was the clear leader for the network this April, tripling or quadrupling the next nearest program. As the season unfolded audiences grew steadily smaller, although they will most likely be back when the story lines knit together.

With six and a half nights left to program after MAD MEN was set, AMC had a lot of slots to fill. Monday through Wednesday's mini-week movie themes did well. Predictably, ACTION WEEK was the strongest theme (led by The Last Samurai) while COMEDY WEEK was the weakest.

The most interesting night for programmers, and the least-watched among viewers, was Thursday nights. AMC has been trying to establish a beachhead on Thursday nights with a mix of reality programming. FREAKSHOW and COMIC BOOK MEN were in place this month. Season finales ran in the first week of April, and encores followed. The best rated telecast of the month came in the last week of April when a movie (The Marine) pre-empted the 8-9PM block.

Friday and Saturday's mix of movies performed consistently vs. both last year and last month.

AMC is not without its challenges, but the network has become a master at packaging and marketing. The new tagline, “Something More” was designed to speak to the level of programming found at AMC, and hopefully speaks to more good things to come.