OnScreen Summit: Great Series More Important Than Ever to Defining Channels

AMC's Sapan, 'Breaking Bad' EP Talk Success of Outgoing Drama, Upcoming ‘Rectify'
Publish date:
Updated on

New York -- The story of Mad Men redefining AMC's brand from a classic movie channel to a smart drama network is an often-told story in the cable business, but according to AMC Networks president and CEO Josh Sapan, the maxim is even truer in today's media landscape.

"Individual great series can increasingly define a channel," Sapan said at B&C/Multichannel News' Fifth Annual OnScreen Media Summit on Thursday. "I think it was true 10 years ago before on-demand proliferated and was used on the cable systems the way it is today. It's even truer when on-demand is extended to TV Everywhere, authentication."

He argued that the ability to watch programming on any device you want means viewers will be more engaged with the series they are passionate about, instead of casual channel surfing. 

Sapan hopes that Sundance Channel has a brand-defining entry in its upcoming first scripted series Rectify, a drama about a man recently released after 19 years on death row from Breaking Bad executive producer Mark Johnson.

"The TV shows that matter the most now matter more and more and more," Sapan said. "It gives greater importance to great storytelling, especially dramatic storytelling."

Johnson joined Sapan in the interview moderated by Multichannel News editor-in-chief Mark Robichaux and talked about Breaking Bad, which was AMC's second brand-defining drama after Mad Men. Johnson, a former film producer, credits the unconventional show's success on the declining creativity of the film industry.

"Right now, America studios really don't have any kind of thematic or stylistic identity," he said. "TV has taken that over."

Indeed, Sapan said the pilot, which FX initially passed on making, floored AMC because it was as close to great independent film as a TV series might be.

"It's a show that doesn't have any predictably to it, which in many ways should not be a recipe for building the success that we've been able to build," Johnson said. "We've now taken the place of classic American movies. We really can't stop watching the anti-hero."