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AMC Networks Makes Big Play for Family Viewing With ‘Project Awe,’ Holiday Movies

 AMC Networks is making a play for one of the most desirable TV audiences of all – families.

The New York-based media company, which operates AMC, IFC,We TV, SundanceTV and BBC America, intends to go after broad family viewing by launching a “micro-network” devoted to programming about natural history and by expanding its efforts around Christmas-themed programming to all five of its entertainment networks.

“What advertiser wouldn’t want to be in the kind of content that makes people feel good?” asked Sarah Barnett,  president of the entertainment networks group at AMC Networks, in an interview.

In the fourth quarter of this year, AMC Networks will launch “Project Awe,” a Saturday-only schedule devoted to nature and wildlife programming that will air on BBC America. Thanks to a new five-year deal with the BBC, viewers can get first U.S. looks at new installments of popular franchises like “Planet Earth” and “Frozen Planet.” AMC Networks found the genre had appeal earlier this year as it simulcast “Dynasties” a series focused on endangered species, across four of its networks and signed Acura as a sponsor.

“Our ambition knows no bounds in this space,” says Barnett.

BBC American will be the  co-producer, exclusive U.S. broadcaster, and first-window platform for the “Frozen Planet II,” “Planet Earth III” and Sir David Attenborough’s next series “One Planet: Seven Worlds.” AMC Networks is committing to offer 2000 hours of the genre each year on the new Saturday programming schedule. Project Awe will also host special events on the broader BBC America schedule throughout the year, culminating in a new series each year.

AMC Networks will look to capture family viewing around end-of-year holiday time by expanding its “Best Christmas Ever” initiative. AMC will continue  to show holiday movies from Thanksgiving week through Christmas Day, but IFC, WE tv, BBC America and SundanceTV will now all show holiday programming as well.

The move puts AMC Networks into a competitive arena. Hallmark Channel and Disney’s Freeform also emphasize holiday programming and movies.

The company unveiled the new initiatives as the TV industry’s annual “upfront” sales season looms. Scott Collins, president of ad sales for AMC Networks, says the company will tout the high quality of many of its programs, telling Madison Avenue that while they can’t advertise in well-regarded shows on HBO, Netlflix or Amazon, they can sponsor series available from AMC.

“There aren’t many places for advertiser to really put their brands that are at the forefront of television. You can’t buy ‘Game fo Thrones.’ You can’t buy ‘Stranger Things.’ You can’t buy ‘Mrs. Maisel,” says Barnett. “You can buy ‘Killing Eve.’ We think that that’s a show that has as much cultural currency as any of those shows.”

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