One knock against AMC Networks as a business is that it may be too small to hold its own when it negotiates deals with cable and satellite distributors. But CEO Josh Sapan says he isn’t worried: With hit series including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, pay TV distributors looking for opportunities to squeeze costs will find that “AMC Networks may have among the highest, if not the highest, value for penny [based] on what we put on the air,” he told investors this morning at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. Indeed, it may be worth questioning programming giants such as Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Viacom “about where scale goes and whether all scale’s good.” Sapan credits on-demand technologies and services for changing TV viewing habits — especially for dramas — in ways that favor AMC. When someone wants to catch up with a series, “instead of having to find it on Channel 11 at 11 PM, you find it on demand and have the energy, time and attention” to enjoy it. Also, since viewers can tune in when they’re ready, they’re watching television “with more concentration and attention,” he says. As a result, programmers can “pay attention to a more nuanced story.” VOD also enables networks including the ones he controls to stick with shows long enough for them to find an audience. “Historically in broadcast television there has not been a lot of patience for understandable economic reasons….That [new] pattern is baked into a new paradigm of television.”
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