As last year’s most critically acclaimed new TV series, Killing Eve, returns to BBC America on April 7 for Season 2, parent company AMC Networks is literally doubling down on the show. The entire sophomore season will be simulcast on AMC—with identical ad loads on both networks—a move that more cable networks are making as they look to woo audiences amid the Peak TV glut.
Last spring, Killing Eve built on its 18-49 and 25-54 demo audience each week, becoming the first scripted audience to do so since Nielsen’s live-plus-3 measurement began more than a decade ago. Since then, thanks to its Emmy nominations and star Sandra Oh’s recent Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award wins, “the show has only gotten hotter,” said Sarah Barnett, president of entertainment networks for AMC Networks. “We want to open all doors for what we hope is a surge of audience for this season. We want people to watch it on our platforms, and we think there’s great opportunity there.”
Networks have dabbled with simulcasting for years, but usually only with splashy events like awards shows (the SAG Awards on TNT and TBS; the MTV Video Music Awards across Viacom’s properties). But now those efforts are expanding. Last year, Waco, the limited series on the just-launched Paramount Network, was simulcast on CMT (with mirrored ad loads), along with the premiere episode of its Kevin Costner western drama Yellowstone, to help promote the new network’s inaugural slate. And NBCUniversal simulcast last September’s premiere of USA’s The Purge on Syfy, and then ran encores of subsequent episodes on Syfy the night after their debut.
AMC Networks is ratcheting things up to a new level with Killing Eve, as part of the company’s new initiative to expose its shows to as many viewers as possible inside its own footprint, instead of losing potential audiences to competitors like Hulu, which has exclusive SVOD rights to Eve. “We are beginning to think more of our different audiences as one ecosystem, and using the increasingly targeted analytics we have to pinpoint those different opportunities,” said Barnett. In another nod to this, she’s pairing Killing Eve with supernatural romance A Discovery of Witches, based on Deborah Harkness’ best-selling novel. That series debuted in January on the company’s streaming services Sundance Now, Shudder and AMC Premiere, and will now be simulcast on the two linear networks. In January, AMC Networks aired its five-episode nature docuseries Dynasties across AMC, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV.
While this new approach would seem to potentially cannibalize viewers or water down the individual brands, AMC’s research indicates minimal audience overlap among its four entertainment networks. Just 7 percent of AMC Networks’ 25-54 audience among those channels watch all four networks in the live-plus-3 window in an average year, and only 26 percent of AMC and BBC America viewers in that demo watch both networks in live-plus-3 during prime time.
“We have four very well-defined brands. We’re not messing with that,” said Barnett. “We believe we can drive even more audience for BBC America this season.”
AMC Networks had sold Killing Eve in the upfront before the company’s simulcast plan was set, but capitalized on the shift in the scatter market, commanding “Walking Dead-like CPMs” for the series, said Scott Collins, president of ad sales. With Eve’s buzz, especially on the heels of Oh’s trophy wins in January, “it was a pretty easy sell for people looking for high impact. And we can sell it for more money because of the simulcast viewership,” said Collins. “It’s been a great mover for us in the scatter marketplace.”
Even with the scatter upcharge, the move toward simulcasting is attractive to buyers, who will “take any eyeballs I can get. I am all for different ways to expand an audience, bring more people to television and mitigate erosion,” said Carrie Drinkwater, executive director, integrated investments at MullenLowe’s Mediahub. “I don’t think it’s going to cannibalize anything for them. If anything, it will introduce people to other things on their network, and help boost overall ratings.”
As it keeps a close eye on its Killing Eve/Discovery of Witches experiment over the next two months, AMC Networks will make its cross-platform content-sharing decisions on a “case-by-case” basis going forward, said Barnett. “We have a ton of ideas of different ways to come at this.”