“We’re in every alternative bundle that’s been offered to date,” including Sling TV and Sonly’s PlayStation Vue, he says. “That’s not because they’re nice to us, but because it will drive their business.” With five of TV’s top 10 shows including The Walking Dead, “we’re a fantastic bargain.”
Even so, he says that there’s still life left in the traditional pay TV bundle. “People like one price for a lot of stuff.”
But he doesn’t see offering AMC or other channels individually on the Internet, similar to HBO Now.
The current system of introducing shows on basic pay TV channels, and keeping them on the infrastructure — VOD, for example — at least a year before offering them to outside services such as Netflix has “worked pretty well for us.”
What’s more, advertising is “a great growth business for us.”
The market’s volume is “pretty good,” though growth will come in at about 4% this year versus his expectations for 5.5%. He’s optimistic about 2017 after a strong upfront market, and as Nielsen works to include digital viewers into its ratings, “there’s significant upside for us.”
The Walking Dead is still AMC’s biggest seller and — without apparent irony — he says “it has a long life.”
He’s also optimistic about Preacher and Better Call Saul, among other productions. Sapan told investors that AMC is “a relatively small company with a pretty good batting average.”
And he’s upbeat about the growing number of home-grown productions. “Our investment in content has increased pretty significantly.”
That isn’t necessarily because bidding has increased for new shows. For most of AMC’s hits including Mad Men and Breaking Bad, “there was no bidding for those shows. They couldn’t sell them.”
As a result, “we don’t see dramatic price escalation. We do see more speed to commit.”
Sapan adds that he doesn’t feel pressure to become part of a bigger company with mergers including AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner.
“What’s most important is to have content that people really desire,” he says. “The consumer’s voice and choice is becoming louder due to social media. … We’ve been focused on strategic investments that make our content better, and it seems to be working pretty well.”