AMC Networks Will Give Upfront Spotlight to All Cable Outlets in a First

The Walking Dead Carl Grimes
Gene Page/AMC

When people hear about AMC Networks, chances are they first think about the company’s flagship cable outlet and shows like “The Walking Dead” or “Better Call Saul” As the company makes the rounds in advance of TV’s annual upfront sales discussion, however, it’s hoping to broaden Madison Avenue’s perception.

On Thursday, the company will mount a first: an “upfront” presentation that calls out all five of its cable networks, which also include We TV, Sundance, IFC, and BBC America. The last, in which AMC invested $200 million to win a 49.9% stake in 2014, has not gotten a public spotlight like this since the transaction was completed, executives said,.

“Our message is all about content that matters,” said Scott Collins, president of advertising sales for AMC Networks, in an interview. The company intends to press the point that its networks show engaging TV programs ranging from “Top of the Lake” and “Hap & Leonard” on SundanceTV to “Into the Badlands” on AMC that draw fans, not casual video grazers. Collins feels advertisers are eager to hear about high-quality content at a time when Madison Avenue is growing more concerned about measurement of digital audiences and being placed next to video that might be offensive or polarizing – a problem Google’s YouTube is working through at present.

TV executives say they are optimistic for this year’s ad negotiations, although buyers are skeptical about the market, citing linear ratings declines. AMC Networks said advertising revenues for its most recent full fiscal year increased 4.8% to $991 million.

Executives are likely to talk about how the company has invested in content across its networks, said Ed Carroll, AMC Networks’ chief operating officer. He cited new programs such as “Brockmire,” an IFC comedy led by Hank Azaria; expansions of reality franchises on We TV; and a relaunch of a U.S.  version of “Top Gear” on BBC America.

On AMC, viewers can prepare for a limited series based on John LeCarre’ s “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” as well as “The Son,” a Western led by Pierce Brosnan; “The Terror,” the network’s first anthology series. On Sundance, Nicole Kidman will take part in a new cycle of “Top of the Lake,” said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios.

AMC Networks has quietly launched a data product, said Collins, and is looking for charter advertisers to take part. The company uses Nielsen data and information from individual clients to help marketers optimize their ad buy not only on its own networks, but across TV. “You get to see what you bought, what you could have bought better and it gives you an idea of what you should be doing moving forward,” said Collins.

The company is also excited about its coming broadcast of the 100th episode of “The Walking Dead.” “We hope to have someone who is interested in being a big part, promotionally, with that significant moment,” said Collins.

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