Sapan: Windowing Strategy Has Helped Enhance AMC Value

Uses ‘Almost Surgical Care’ In Determining Where Shows End Up in Cycle

New York – AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan said the cable programmer’s widowing strategy with some of its shows has not only helped drive viewership of some shows, but also has enhanced the value of the network to distributors.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference here, Sapan said that early on AMC recognized that viewers, especially younger viewers, tended to watch shows via subscription video on demand services and other non-linear methods. That strategy helped drive the success of shows that he said “require more attention,” like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, where viewers caught up on the series via services like Netflix. That technology trend is expected to continue he said, especially as younger viewers utilize third screens to engage with friends and other viewers as the show is being aired.

Although AMC has benefitted greatly from that strategy, Sapan said the company kept a lose eye on how it utilized those windows, adding that the idea has always been to use SVOD and services like it to drive viewers back to the linear channel. That too, he said, has added value to distributors that carry the channel.

“What have tried to do is to be a true provider of value, that comes in couple of different ways – our channels really do represent quality that leads to consumer engagement, and part of the way we enhance that value proposition is by exercising a lot of care in the way we manage rights and the period of time our shows show up on alternate platforms,” Sapan said, adding that AMC usually waits close to a year between airtime on the linear channel to a run on Netflix. That compares to some programmers that allow SVOD airings a day or a week after a show debuts on a linear channel.

“It is a balancing act,” Sapan said, adding that while traditionally content providers have engineered windows to maximize the value to themselves and those that carry their programming, today the “almost surgical care,” of determining those windows has become an increasingly large part of the job.

But that attention has resulted in what Sapan said was “some uptick in the rate of rate escalation in what we’ve been paid. We set a reasonably good pattern and going reasonably well.”

Sapan also was encouraged by AMC’s recent acquisition of international programmer Chellomedia. While the deal is expected to close in the first quarter, he said that eventually it could evolve into another outlet for AMC’s programming.

“In the near term it will be business as usual,” Sapan said. “…There is no question that now being part of programming company, there is opportunity to really enhance the programming slate… Populating channels with our content is probably a mid- to long-term opportunity.”