AMC Chief on 'Breaking Bad's' Secret to Success; Says Network Offers 'Highest Value for Penny'

11:34 AM PST 09/24/2013 by Paul Bond
Ursula Coyote/AMC

Josh Sapan told Wall Street analysts on Tuesday that the network aims to step up investments in owned content and has benefited from the recent shift to VOD viewing.

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan on Tuesday boasted that AMC shows might offer “the highest value for penny” -- more so than larger networks with the scale to presumably drive down the cost of programming.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs 22nd Annual Communacopia Conference in New York, Sapan said that the quality of shows like The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad ought to ensure that the network can command top dollar from ancillary outlets like Internet streamers. In fact, Sapan said that he intends to step up investment in owned content as opposed to "rented" content.

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“Had we had it to do over again, we might have chosen to own Mad Men,” he said, quickly adding that Lionsgate has been a great partner on the project. “We did make the decision to essentially own The Walking Dead, and that worked out quite well, so I think we have a bias toward owning.”

The CEO said “there is no secret sauce” when it comes to creating wildly popular shows like Breaking Bad, beyond partnering with the right talent, but said that AMC is benefiting from a shift in viewing behavior to VOD, SVOD and binge-watching through services like Netflix and iTunes.

Scripted dramas, Sapan said, work particularly well in the shift to on-demand viewing.

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“People are watching television with greater concentration, and more attention, more often sitting down when you want to as opposed to when the schedule instructs you to,” he said. “Because of that, you can pay a little more attention to a nuanced story and you have a little more appreciation for nuance, great writing and craft.”

AMC also benefits from another "new paradigm," which is its ability and desire to give its shows a bit of extra time to capture the audiences' attention. Sapan used the substantial year-over-year increase in ratings for the Emmy-winning Breaking Bad as an example.

He told the Wall Street analysts in attendance that AMC is "in a fairly good place," even with Breaking Bad ending soon, given that Mad Men has two more years left and The Walking Dead is "in its childhood, not even its adolescence." He's also bullish on shows in development, including Turn, a Revolutionary War period piece about spies, and Halt & Catch Fire, about technology pioneers during the 1980s.

Sapan also promised that Breaking Bad will come to "an exquisite close" that will "provide some grand sheen after it's gone."

 

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