AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan told analysts at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference that he’s “exploring changing the mix of content on AMC” based on the recent success of its zombiefest The Walking Dead — and four non-fiction series he plans to introduce beginning next year. He wasn’t specific about how a revamped channel would look, though. “We’ll see how it goes,” he says. It’s easy to appreciate why he wants to shake up people’s perception of AMC. Pay TV companies currently pay about 25 cents a month for each home that receives the channel. But Sapan says that, with its many original shows, in a perfect world it’s “at minimum a 75 cent channel. …. We’re way underpaid.” He’s a realist, though, acknowledging that “we’re not necessarily going to get that tomorrow.” As a result, Sapan talked up his company’s efficient management of costs. For example, he says that his development costs are “modest.” Although it owns most of its non-fiction shows — “they’re not that expensive,” he says — for most of the shows on AMC “we have chosen not to 100% own.” Sapan says that “it’s about risk appetite. … If a studio partner is going to come in and fund 30-odd percent of the cost, it’s sensible to de-risk that transaction.” Of course he has second thoughts about not seizing the chance to own AMC’s hit Mad Men. He wasn’t convinced that AMC would do so well with a talky series about ad execs in the 1950s and ’60s. “It took everybody by surprise,” he says. But he was more confident about Walking Dead. “That ownership decision was the wisest and best one,” Sapan says. And he’d like to have more product to sell in the syndication market — especially streaming services such as as Netflix and Amazon. Their presence “opens the world significantly; what qualifies as success on those platforms is quite different” than it is for traditional syndication outlets including TV stations and other cable channels. For example, Mad Men “performs spectacularly” on Netflix.
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