AMC Likely to Launch Third Night of Scripted Originals, Executive Says

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan and his team are continuing to push into original content

The network sees the best revenue upside in more scripted originals, management says

AMC Networks' flagship AMC network will continue with unscripted shows Comic Book Men and Talking Dead, but otherwise focus more on scripted originals, with the potential for a new night of scripted fare launching next year, management said Thursday.

"There is a strong possibility we will introduce a third day of the week of original content on AMC at some point in 2015," the company's COO Ed Carroll said on its earnings conference call. "We really want to continue to put our main focus on high-quality scripted. There is the most revenue opportunity."

So far, AMC has featured scripted originals on weekends, with unscripted shows on Thursday. But the company recently scaled back on its unscripted fare. It wasn't immediately clear if future scripted originals would be launched on Thursday or another night.

AMC in the latest quarter placed a straight-to-series order for a martial arts drama tentatively titled Badlands, Sapan said. It will premiere either in late 2015 or early in 2016, he said, touting the show's modern take on a classic genre. The network has also signed on to co-produce sci-fi series Humans, which will air next year. Sapan lauded the strong talent behind both shows.

Read more What's Behind AMC's Axing Unscripted TV

AMC is also developing a companion show for The Walking Dead and a show based on controversial comic Preacher, plus has drama pilot White City and comedy pilot We Hate Paul Revere. But AMC recently also passed on two dramas.

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan said that the company will be "very selective" with unscripted shows going forward. "Our desire is to focus on what creates the greatest engagement with viewers in a very crowded content environment," he said.

But the WE tv network will continue to offer its popular brand of unscripted fare, such as Braxton Family Values, the executives said. Sapan said viewers consistently laud the network's programming.

"We hope we are sensibly investing," Sapan also said Thursday in discussing the overall original programming strategy of the company's networks. "There is a lot of opportunity there."

See more 'Walking Dead' Season 5 Premiere

The AMC Networks CEO lauded The Walking Dead for again shattering ratings records in its recent return, calling it "essentially our version of the NFL." He had previously made the NFL comparison. He said it was interesting that at a time when sports is considered the ultimate content must-have, Walking Dead proves "the enormous potential and power" of a "story well told."

Citing increased original content competition and shifting viewing habits, cable networks need an "elevation" of content, and AMC Networks' recent investment in and partnership with BBC America makes sense in that context. He spoke of the "tremendous" leveraged opportunity of quality content.

"As we continue to make content investment our priority and examine our business in the context of an increasingly digital world, we are very mindful of expenses and are continually focused on refining our organization and the way we do business in order to operate as efficiently as possible," Sapan said. He highlighted that in recent months, the firm has taken steps "to reorient and reorganize our staffing." He added that the company plans to constantly calibrate this aspect of its business.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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