AMC Pops online before cable debut

American Pop emphasizes fun movies, docus

AMC is creating a niche cable network, but with a difference — the program service will make its debut on the World Wide Web on May 1, months before it appears as a 24-hour cable channel.

Called AMC’s American Pop, the network “will get launched first on the Web and the Internet to tease viewers,” building anticipation for the channel to kick off sometime during the fourth quarter of 1998, said Kate McEnroe, president of AMC Networks, at a press event held at the Comfort Diner, a midtown retro eatery.

At the briefing, McEnroe also said that AMC has reshuffled its senior management team. Noreen O’Loughlin, senior VP of marketing, becomes executive VP and G.M. of AMC. Mary Murano, senior VP of sales and affiliate relations, becomes executive VP, distribution and affiliate relations, AMC and Romance Classics. Marty von Ruden, VP of public relations, gets upped to senior VP and G.M. for Romance Classics. David Sehring goes from VP to senior VP of acquisitions and programming for AMC Networks.

Josh Sapan, CEO of Rainbow Programming Holdings, the parent company of AMC, said AMC is devising American Pop as a brand extension to take advantage of heavy experimenting going on among cable operators to expand channel capacity on some of their systems through digital technology.

“But branded networks will end up as dinosaurs unless they get their own Web sites to give context” to the tens of millions of cable subscribers who also go online just about every day, Sapan said.

Movies from the 1930s through the 1980s will make up the bulk of AMC’s American Pop network. Sehring said the channel will fill out its schedule with lots of documentaries and short films focusing on the culture of U.S. life throughout this period, covering everything from the heyday of frozen TV dinners and the craze for body painting to the changing image of robots in sci-fi movies and the shifting styles of pop music.

“The movies we run on American Pop will be fun-loving, drive-in-type pictures,” McEnroe said. “Tarzan movies, which do well when we run them on AMC, plus the Three Stooges, ‘The Blob’ and ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.’ ” She added that AMC will put out a full lineup early in May at the National Cable TV Assn. convention in Atlanta.

The Web site of American Pop will feature promos for the movies and lots of material on pop culture, with chat rooms and bulletin boards for subscribers to type in requests for future programming. “We’re making a real estate grab,” McEnroe said, referring to AMC’s attempt to secure channel space on cable systems as they double and triple their channel capacity.

But, she said, “We’re trying to come up with something different, rather than just more of the same,” like another pure movie channel that would simply recycle the inventory in the AMC library.

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