AMC Networks CEO Talks Original Shows vs. Films

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Josh Sapan and his CFO also discuss the planned $1 billion acquisition of Liberty Global's content arm and AMC's relationship with pay TV firms.

NEW YORK – AMC Networks continues to view films as a key part of the content offerings on its networks, even as it continues to expand its use of original TV shows, CEO Josh Sapan said here Monday.

Film ratings on the company's IFC and Sundance Channel "have ascended," he said at the 41st annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. "Movies are a very important part and building block" of the company at least over the near term, but longer term the focus of all the firm's channels will push original programs amid its monetization opportunities in the digital age.

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CFO Sean Sullivan was asked at the conference about the risks of the original TV show business, saying its financial risks are not as big as those of the film business. International and subscription VOD deals allow the company to finance much of the cost of a freshman show, but not all of it, he said.

Both acknowledged some disappointment about Low Winter Sun having been canceled after one season, but said that this remained part of the creative process. Sapan also touted the two new originals AMC is looking to launch next year: Revolutionary War espionage drama Turn and 1980s computer industry drama Halt & Catch Fire.

Sullivan also commented on the company's recent agreement to acquire Chellomedia, the content arm of European cable giant Liberty Global, for $1 billion. He said it accelerates the company's international strategy as it provides "a very meaningful platform" for AMC, especially in Europe and Latin America. He said the deal remains on track to be completed in the first quarter.

"We feel very good about the asset as is," he said, even though the company also sees upside from optimizing the availability of content across the world and possible rebrandings of networks.

Sapan on Monday said AMC has tried to be "a true provider of value" to pay TV operators. While it has pushed for higher carriage fees amid higher spending on original content and ratings increases, its partners have also benefited from the company's hit shows, such as Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, Sapan said.

Twitter: @georgszalai