New York -- In an unusual strategy, American Movie
Classics will debut its new network, AMC's American Pop, in cyberspace this May,
before rolling it out as a 24-hour channel for digital tiers in the fourth quarter,
officials said last week.
The new entertainment network, which will focus on pop
culture from the 1930s through the 1980s, will offer its content on several converging
platforms -- the World Wide Web; cable-modem services and broadband networks; and digital
platforms -- AMC Networks president Kate McEnroe said at a press conference here last
As a result, cable operators can use American Pop -- which
can be customized by market -- as a tool to drive consumer demand for new-media offerings,
such as online services, modems and digital, according to McEnroe.
Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC's parent, Rainbow
Media Holdings Inc., noted that the rollout plan for American Pop is the reverse
of that for traditional networks, which debut as video channels and then go on the
Internet with accompanying Web sites.
American Pop will premiere May 1 with its Web site, as well
as on the high-speed cable-modem service being offered by Rainbow's parent, Cablevision
Systems Corp. The video channel, aimed at digital carriage, won't launch until later this
year, when operators have more digital set-tops deployed.
Looking to tap into America's collective memories and
consciousness and to attract baby boomers, American Pop's programming will include a mix
of movies, like the Tarzan films; TV series; newsreels; documentaries; film shorts;
and even viewers' home movies. The lineup will cover topics ranging from TV dinners to
robots to how the contact lens was invented. The full programming schedule will be
unveiled at the National Show in Atlanta next month, McEnroe said.
In terms of new digital-programming services, McEnroe said,
consumers don't just want more networks and movies -- they are looking for something more:
interactivity, which American Pop will offer.
A consumer will be able to find short-form video about a
science-fiction movie like Gorgo on the American Pop Internet site, then find an
interactive game and full-motion video of the movie on a modem online service, and then
see the film itself on the digital network, officials explained by way of example.
AMC plans to work closely with MSOs that are deploying
cable-modem services, and it intends to customize American Pop for specific clusters of
cable systems, she added, using the operators' own servers. Rainbow plans to first
approach operators with highly clustered systems -- such as MediaOne, Cox Communications
Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc. -- about American Pop.
"It's [American Pop] very intriguing," said Lou
Borelli, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Marcus Cable. "It's
different, and that's what we need. It makes a lot of sense ... the creativity to go with
a Web-based launch. I'm anxious to learn more about it."
American Pop will be hosted on all three platforms by
"The Pop Family" -- animated soda-pop bottles that will help viewers to
American Pop will be different than a network such as Nick
at Nite's TV Land, McEnroe said, because it will deal with "our shared collective
memories about everything, and not just television."
In announcing the new digital offering, both McEnroe and
Sapan said they expect the rollout of digital set-tops to accelerate this year, as
operators find ways to offset their cost.
Another Rainbow unit, Bravo, is slated to launch a digital
network, World Cinema, by the time 1 million digital converters are deployed, which Sapan
said is likely to be in the third quarter of this year.
Now that AMC is dealing with networks on a variety of
platforms, it has repositioned its management team with a series of promotions. Noreen
O'Laughlin, previously senior vice president of marketing, was named executive vice
president and general manager of AMC. Mary Murano, former senior vice president of sales
and affiliate relations, was named executive vice president of distribution and affiliate
relations for AMC and Romance Classics.
Martin von Ruden, former vice president of public
relations, was named senior vice president and general manager of Romance Classics. And
David Sehring, creative director for AMC's film-preservation festivals, was named senior
vice president of acquisitions and programming for AMC Networks. All of the recently
promoted officials report directly to McEnroe.