MIPTV: Drama is becoming increasingly important to pay-TV providers as new technology allows people to catch up on previous seasons, according to the head of US cableco AMC Networks.
Mad Men, the 1960s-set cult hit, returned to screens around the world last week following the premiere of season five on AMC in the US, where it drew 3.5 million viewers, up 20% on its ratings for the debut of season four.
Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks, said this was an example of digital services such as Netflix and Hulu, and digital downloads, attracting new viewers who want to catch up with shows and then watch new episodes on linear channels.
Speaking to C21 ahead of his keynote during the Drama Coproexchange here in Cannes, Sapan said: “Technology makes this the era of big drama, the era of great TV.
“Dramatic content has a new place in the television landscape because the technology is changing. The box set is old news. You can [watch a whole season] anywhere you go and it makes good dramas rise in importance.”
Sapan said the biggest winners when it comes to new technology are pay-TV providers, who “have never been in better shape. Services like Netflix allow people to catch up. It means those channels that have the best dramas are the ones that thrive and become the most important to cable or satellite operators.
“Viewers will say, ‘I’m going to catch up on Mad Men and then go to [AMC Networks-owned] Sundance Channel Global and watch season five.’ It will make Sundance Channel that much more important.
“The good stuff in today’s pay-TV will rise to the top, in part because the technology facilitates it. And we hope with Sundance Channel Global, which has Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Weeds and The Walking Dead, it will be among the most important channels to have.”
Bruce Tuchman, president of AMC/Sundance Channel Global, who is leading the worldwide expansion of Sundance Channel, told C21 that shows such as these are helping to boost demand for the network in new territories.
“All of this content is really driving opportunities for us,” he said. “In spite of some economic doldrums in some markets, our creative goal doesn’t reflect this and we’re continuing to accelerate our plans to expand into new territories and widen our reach in existing markets.
“In existing markets, such as Belgium, we were originally distributed in HD. Now we are in SD basic on Telenet. What we’re finding is operators really appreciate what we’re bringing, and you’ll see growth in both areas.”
Sundance Channel Global yesterday announced it had picked up a package of shows – comprising Weeds, Damages and Australian series The Slap and The Straits – from Lionsgate to air across Europe and Asia.