The cable company’s CEO Josh Sapan noted that both shows have fans, but have struggled in the ratings.
“We have to assess both [shows] as we look at what the full impact is,” Sapan said during a presentation at the Gabelli & Company Movie and Entertainment Conference in New York.
“Halt and Catch Fire” looks at the early days of personal computing and unfolds against a Reagan-era backdrop. Reviews for the second season, which began in May, have been strong, with some critics arguing the show has gained steam as it has gone along. Sapan said the show has benefitted by giving actresses Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé more prominent roles than they had in the first season.
“We think the show is good,” said Sapan. “It’s better and more energetic.”
“The reviews have been extremely good,” he added. “We’d like the number to be higher on ‘Halt.'”
“Turn,” a historical drama about a Revolutionary War spy network has also struggled to break out, though Sapan noted that ratings improved over the final four episodes of its second season.
He praised the “enthusiastic reception” for the show, but noted he wished ratings were stronger.
Sapan seemed much more enthusiastic about the rest of AMC’s programming lineup, praising the performance of the “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul,” and predicting big things for “Preacher,” a comic book adaptation produced by Seth Rogen, the martial arts drama “Into the Badlands,” and “The Night Manager,” a miniseries based on a John le Carré novel with Hugh Laurie of “House.”
Also on tap is “Fear the Walking Dead,” a companion series to the hit show “The Walking Dead” that Sapan promised will reveal “what happened before the god damn zombie apocalypse happened.”
The competition for quality programming has intensified since AMC scored a critical triumph with “Mad Men.” Sapan noted that most of the players in the space are subscription services or premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, Netflix, and Amazon.
“Basic cable channels are slightly more oriented towards grabbing audience more quickly with the exception of FX,” said Sapan.
That’s not what AMC does. Shows like “Better Call Saul,” which looks at a lawyer on the margins, or “Breaking Bad,” with its depiction of a meth-cooking science teacher, defy easy characterization.
“There’s no skin and there’s no action in any predictable way, so we think quality matters,” said Sapan.