AMC Networks Is Going to Tout Its Shows This Week, Not Brand Messaging or Data

Highlights all 5 of its networks at first combined upfront

The Walking Dead, still TV's No. 1 series in total viewers and adults 18-49, will celebrate its 100th episode this fall.
Gene Page/AMC

As it prepares for its first combined upfront event on Thursday night, AMC Networks is taking an unconventional approach to connect with buyers this year. The company is going to let the quality of its shows do most of the talking.

So, instead of unveiling new brand messaging or network refreshes at New York’s Skylight Clarkson North that night, AMC Networks is putting its series and their stars front and center.

“We think the focus should be on the content that is delivering those passionate fans,” said Scott Collins, president, advertising sales, AMC Networks. “That is more important now than ever before. It seems like it’s almost uncool to talk about programs. Everyone’s talking about other things.”

But Collins said the shows and their passionate fans on AMC, SundanceTV, IFC, BBC America and WE tv, should be more important than ever to advertisers, as brands pull their ads from YouTube over concerns about brand safety.

Collins, who was named AMC Networks’ ad sales chief last September and is overseeing his first upfront event, said that after two years of agency dinners, the company was ready to hold a united event. “I want to reach out to a wider swath of people in the ad community because not everyone was able to go to the dinner,” he said. “But even more importantly, it was the right moment for us to come together as AMC Networks.” Collins added that the five brands have now “crystallized.”

Thursday will be the first time AMC Networks is spotlighting BBC America, which it made a 49.9 percent investment in two and a half years ago. “It was a good moment to showcase that as part of the larger AMC company,” said Ed Carroll, COO, AMC Networks.

The presentation will also enable the company to showcase the strength of its five networks when others are eliminating their least popular channels. “We have five networks that do very specific things and complement each other, whereas not every group can say that,” said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. “We’re firing on all cylinders from a brand point of view, and it’s very relevant to the marketplace.”

We think the focus should be on the content that is delivering those passionate fans. That is more important now than ever before.
Scott Collins, president, advertising sales, AMC Networks

The event’s focus on shows doesn’t mean AMC doesn’t care about data. In fact, Collins is bringing a new data platform to the upfront market for a handful of clients, though he might not even mention it Thursday. “To sit there and wax poetic about data isn’t the best use of anyone’s time,” he said.

Added Carroll of the company’s still unnamed, Nielsen-based data offering, “We haven’t been pounding our chest about it, but we are quietly working with a handful of Fortune 500 companies. We have been testing it for over a year, and it works.”

The biggest difference from other networks’ data platforms is that AMC isn’t just optimizing its own portfolio’s inventory for marketers. “A lot of companies have gone, ‘This is how to buy me and optimize me and my 17 networks.’ What we’re doing is looking at an advertiser’s entire television buy. We look back and we see optimization opportunities that could have happened [in the past],” said Collins. “We take those learnings and apply them to the future, and that’s really where the value comes in.”

Thursday’s upfront event and sit-down dinner will be “a combination of scale and intimacy,” said Collins. Each of the network chiefs will speak and air clips of upcoming shows, while talent from all five networks will rotate around the various dinner tables. Collins said the approach echoes the last upfront presentation AMC held as an individual network three years ago, an event clients still rave about.

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