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Manos Turns the ‘Dead’ Into Cash

Ad Exec Translates AMC Originals Into $1 Billion in Sales 1/25/2016 8:00 AM Eastern
AMC Networks' Arlene Manos

ARLENE MANOS

TITLE: President, National Advertising Sales, AMC Networks

 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Veteran of A&E Television Networks; helped shepherd AMC, WE tv, IFC and SundanceTV’s transition to ad-supported networks

 

QUOTE: “The product [AMC] was good. It just evolved into something spectacular.”

— Arlene Manos

 

When Rainbow Media needed a sales executive to lead the charge in transforming AMC and WE tv into ad-supported services, it recruited Arlene Manos. It took two tries to get her to come over in 2002.

 

Manos was happily ensconced at A&E Television Networks when she was approached about joining Rainbow Media, now AMC Networks, as president of national advertising sales.

 

“I offered her this job twice before she accepted it,” said Ed Carroll, AMC Networks’ chief operating officer. “I determined that she would be the right person to take us where we wanted to go.”

 

Since then, Manos has not only shepherded the successful transformation of AMC and WE tv, but led a similar effort when IFC and SundanceTV were transitioned to ad-supported networks. Respected and trusted on Madison Avenue, Manos said she was up for the tough task of repositioning AMC Networks’s properties.

 

“It wasn’t like anybody was clamoring for another cable network to come and ask for advertising money … going to ad-supported was a real challenge and, in retrospect, I liked that,” Manos said.

 

TURNING ZOMBIES AND ‘MAD MEN’ INTO CASH

 

Her strategies worked. Manos now oversees a business that generates nearly $1 billion in annual advertising revenue, with net revenue for AMC Networks’s national networks hitting $911 million for the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2015. Her creative partnerships with advertisers — some of whom have incorporated zombies in their spots, a la The Walking Dead — have contributed to that sales growth.

 

By hiring Manos, Carroll said he wanted to send a clear signal to ad agencies that AMC Networks was serious about building ad-supported channels by hiring top-quality sales people and investing in infrastructure.

 

“Arlene is not only known for her own salesmanship, but for recruiting and developing strong talent,” Carroll said. “And there’s no question that the ramp-up in investment in original content on these networks, the only way that could have happened, is by opening up that second revenue stream. So Arlene is an architect of that success in every way.”

 

Manos skillfully used AMC’s groundbreaking original drama Mad Men to make Madison Avenue take a fresh look at the network and rethink its value proposition, according to Carroll. That show was followed by Breaking Bad and the ratings wonder The Walking Dead. Hits like that, critically acclaimed and pop-culture phenomena, made Manos’s job easier when she talked to ad agencies.

 

“First of all, they watch the programs, which is always an advantage,” she said. “Many of our buyers are exactly the right target audience for some of those younger-skewing programs … They appreciate the quality of it. It’s just a huge impact.”

 

Before joining A&E Networks, Manos did stints at Philadelphia magazine and Manhattan,inc. Jack Myers was a local sales manager at WCBS-TV in New York when he brought Manos onboard from Philadelphia, hiring her for a new retail business-development department. He wanted Manos to use her knowledge of high-end retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue to solicit business for the station, and “she did a fantastic job,” said Myers, who is now chairman of Myers BizNet and publisher of MediaVillage.com.

 

LEADING QUIETLY

 

“She’s one of those people that tends to stay in the background, doesn’t look for the limelight … At every level at every job, a very quiet star,” Myers said.

 

The keys to Manos’s success are her people skills and professionalism, according to Myers.

 

“During her WCBS days, she could talk to Marvin Traub, who was chairman of Bloomingdale’s at the time, on a one-to-one basis and engage him in a conversation, and then have a conversation with a media buyer at Grey Advertising, which was their agency at the time, and have the same kind of relationship and conversation,” Myers said. “You never sensed that she saw any hierarchy or saw any differentiation in the importance of that person in the moment that she’s talking to them.”

 

Manos is “a long-term relationship person,” according to Myers.

 

“That’s why she has had a sustained career: People respect and trust her,” he said. “When she makes a commitment, you know she’s going to live by it ... And trust is a huge factor in our business.”

 

Manos said she regards ad sales as a profession, adding, “I love seeing people take it the same way and take pride in what television does.”

 

TOUGH, BUT FAIR

 

She gave Charlie Collier his first job in cable ad sales when she was at A&E Networks. They are now both at AMC Networks, where Collier is president and general manager of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios.

 

“Arlene is driven and she is tough and she is fair and she is nurturing all at once,” Collier said. “She continues to reinvent herself and stay current. She understands trends. She leads.”

 

Last year one of Manos’s innovative deals for AMC included a custom TV spot for a 20th Century Fox reboot of Planet of the Apes, where a Walking Dead viewer would get a walk-on role in the film, Carroll said.

 

With IFC, advertisers with the network have been able to tie into the channel’s Spirit Awards for independent films, with product at that event, Manos said.

 

Beyond repositioning existing networks, Manos’s duties have changed over time. For example, she recently began overseeing ad sales for a new network, BBC America, after AMC Networks entered into a joint venture with BBC Worldwide.

 

Collier, who has accompanied Manos on sales calls, said: “Arlene never feels like she’s selling. She is partnering with the people across the table.”

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