If all goes as planned this time around, AMC's
American Pop will launch July 1, two months after its initial launch date.
But don't try clicking the remote to find it. It will
take a computer, a modem and a Web address (www.ampop.com) to see American Movie Classics'
new pop-culture network, for now.
AMC's experiment in multiplatform programming will
start life as an Internet Web site, with quick-loading graphics, short videos and
interactive activities that are easily accessible to anyone with a 28.8-kilobit-per-second
modem and an Internet connection.
AMC delayed the launch from early May to give the Web
producers a little more time to iron out technical issues and to coincide with a
promotional campaign that will begin after July 4.
American Pop will follow its Internet launch with a
mid-July broadband rollout that will provide high-speed, more complex programming to
consumers with cable modems. For instance, low-band users will see dialogue by the hosts
as speech bubbles, while broadband users will hear them talk. And a weekly episodic
feature that runs for four minutes on the Internet site will be a 15-minute piece on
"We don't really think that people are going to
sit in front of their computers today and watch a one-hour-and-40-minute film. Digital
programming is where you have a more linear experience. It's really programming to
the platform strength, and that's what American Pop is all about," said Gemma
Toner, AMC's senior vice president for development.
Three MSOs will offer American Pop's broadband content
to their cable-modem users: parent company Cablevision Systems Corp., MediaOne and Comcast
Corp.'s Comcast Cable Communications, with a potential audience of about 30,000
homes, growing to around 75,000 by year's end, according to AMC president Kate
The digital rollout is tentatively slated for the fourth
For AMC, American Pop is as multipurpose as some of the
nifty kitchen gadgets featured on its clips from the past. Not only is the triple-platform
approach a first, but the pop-culture network is AMC's first foray into programming
for the new digital tier and its first interactive effort.
That would be a lot of freight for most fledgling networks
to carry, but not for one that was designed as an ongoing experiment. In the long term --
five to seven years -- the plan is to make money. For now, though, McEnroe said, the goal
is to put the technology in place and to experiment with all three platforms.
"The sin is not trying to start experimenting,"
McEnroe said. "We're in this for the long term ...When you're in this new
world, you have to somewhat try to predict the future to own it."
Gaurav Suri, MediaOne's director of content and
business development, welcomed the chance to be part of something that was "billed
from the start as a broadband product, versus something that is retrofitted after the
"Their timing is great, because retro is so in right
now," Suri said. "We want to try out new broadband concepts that are
Experimenting is the only way to get a real grasp on what
consumers want from broadband, Suri added.
"That's kind of the stage that we're in with
a broadband world. When we truly get to the speeds that we're talking about on a
constant basis ... is there new stuff that they're going to want to do? No one can
answer that now," Suri said. He added that most of MediaOne's broadband-only
content to date has simply been based on audio and video-on-demand.
"That's a great use, but it's only one
use," he said.
AMC plans to make full use of the synergies within its
Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. parent unit to promote its newest network. For now, the
promotional campaign will be limited to sister networks and their Web sites. Customized
30-second spots will make the link between pop culture and that network's content.
For instance, promos on Rainbow Media's regional-sports networks will use a sports
Promotions on each network's Web site will follow
suit. Each site will have an American Pop tie-in, with pop-culture content keyed to that
As with Romance Classics, AMC will use programming on its
flagship cable channel to garner attention for the new kid on the block. Beginning Aug.
15, on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. (EST), AMC will air American Pop. Hosted by the
animated Pops, the two-hour show will give AMC viewers a taste of the new network, as it
promotes broadband and, eventually, digital.
McEnroe estimated the promotional value of the time on AMC
alone at $4.5 million, with an additional $3 million to $4 million from its other sister
Promotion outside of Rainbow Media is on hold for now,
although some advertising might appear in Internet magazines later this summer or early in
In essence, AMC is banking on a cross-generational
fascination with the past to help it find its niche in the future.
American Pop is the trivial history of the middle of the
century. It's TV dinners, hula hoops, monster movies, modern living as it was
envisioned in the 1950s, bomb shelters and Pez.
A preview of the site in the weeks leading to the launch
showed a simply designed site, aiming for a broad audience reach, with lots of help built
in. The guides/hosts are Pop, Dixie, Coco and Junior, a "prototypical nuclear
family" whose members happen to be in the shape of brightly colored pop bottles.
Visitors can go on a guided tour or opt to jump right in by
choosing one of the five content areas: "Matinee," "Clip-O-Rama,"
"Trade-N-Post," "Rec Room" and "Pop-A-Ganda."
"If my mother doesn't get this, we can't do
it," McEnroe explained.
The promotional campaign should generate first-time
traffic; the trick will be to encourage repeat visitors and to offer the kind of variety
that keeps people at the site for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Accomplishing the former means updating content regularly
and finding ways to let visitors know that it's time to drop back in.
Matinee is episodic, and it will change topics weekly,
while Rec Room is for gamers, and Clips-O-Rama provides video shorts on-demand of
newsreels, movie trailers, cartoons and serials. The Trade-N-Post offers the most
commercial potential, and Pop-A-Ganda is where American Pop sells the notion of broadband
as the best way to experience what it has to offer, and where it makes other
network-related information available.
"If you watch the episode [on Matinee], you'll be
able to play the game better," Toner said. "We're looking primarily to
extend the length of the visit. The objective is to keep the site deep and dynamic, and to
get people to go to different areas."