Josh Sapan keeps a assemblage of TV scripts in a atramentous haversack that he carries about Manhattan. The 66-year-old media controlling with thick-rimmed glasses reads them on the alms or at coffee shops amid meetings. He’s adorable for addition hit to appease investors who anguish that his berserk accepted crank appearance is assuming signs of age.
Mr. Sapan is arch controlling administrator of AMC Networks Inc., home of “The Walking Dead,” which resumes its seventh division Sunday afterwards a two-month break. The appearance is still the best watched on television amid adolescent viewers, but ratings in that accumulation are bottomward 11% to their everyman in four seasons, and in December AMC cut its anticipation for 2016 advertising.
In an interview, Mr. Sapan said that Wall Street fails to acknowledge all the agency that AMC makes money from “The Walking Dead.” Its acceptance has fueled a spinoff, “Fear the Walking Dead,” and a allocution show, “Talking Dead,” that draw ad revenue. AMC awash accomplished seasons of “The Walking Dead” to Netflix Inc.
As a cast and antecedent of inspiration, Mr. Sapan said, “The Walking Dead” could accept the aforementioned constancy as “Star Trek,” which is still bearing new shows afterwards 50 years. “It still has a long, continued artistic activity and a long, continued bartering life,” he said.
But Mr. Sapan accustomed that AMC charge await beneath on the U.S. cable business, area audiences are acerbic as added bodies shut off their pay-TV account with so abundant video accessible online. That agency AMC has to abate its assurance not alone on its better hit but additionally on its actual business model. Mr. Sapan’s plan includes all-around expansion, added centralized assembly of programming, and a move to online streaming.
AMC, controlled by the Dolan family, is angry to angle out in the “Golden Age of Television” it helped create. A decade ago, Mr. Sapan adapted a asleep cable approach accepted for assuming old black-and-white movies into a home for alarmingly acclaimed dramas like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” Today, about anybody produces high-quality aboriginal shows. The industry fabricated a almanac 455 scripted alternation in 2016.
“They were aboriginal innovators in authoritative abundant acute dramas, but now there’s aloof too abundant of it,” said Michael Nathanson, an yst at MoffettNathanson who afresh downgraded the company’s b to sell.
Many cable channels accept absent viewership as audiences drift to online platforms like Netflix or watch shows online and aren’t counted in the ratings. But AMC stands out because it relies heavily on one show. “The Walking Dead” accounts for about 15 percent of AMC Networks’ ad revenue, said Benjamin Mogil, an yst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
AMC is a baby amateur in a business area big companies are accepting bigger through consolidation. Pay-TV providers like Charter Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. accept swallowed rivals, authoritative it harder for AMC to abide ambitious college ante from them. Sapan absolved the abstraction that he should seek a alliance with addition cable approach buyer to advance advantage with distributors.
“If alliance was activity to accident us, it would accept apparent some signs of accomplishing so already, and aloof the adverse has happened,” Sapan said.
So far, all of AMC’s channels, which accommodate IFC, Sundance and WE tv, are agitated on new online TV casework like AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Dish Arrangement Corp.’s Sling TV. That’s abundantly because “The Walking Dead” has fabricated AMC’s networks a must-carry.
AMC’s channels are adorable because they’re almost bargain for their admirers size, Sapan said. The flagship arrangement costs 48 cents per subscriber per month, compared with $1.82 for TNT and added than $7 for ESPN, according to SNL Kagan.
“Each of our channels is vital,” Mr. Sapan said. “They accept absolute fans. That’s not absolutely accurate of the absolute spectrum of cable offerings.”
Mr. Sapan beneath to animadversion on whether AMC’s channels would be agitated on accessible TV casework from Hulu and YouTube, adage alone that “we’re speaking to them all.” Those new casework are added focused on sports and advertisement programming than on networks that await heavily on scripted entertainment, which may accomplish AMC a beneath acceptable partner.
AMC has created two of its own alive services, the documentary-focused Sundance Now and Shudder, for abhorrence devotees. Last year, it invested $65 actor in RLJ Ball Inc., which owns alive casework for African-Americans and admirers of British programming, and acquired a boyhood pale in amusement armpit Funny or Die. AMC additionally broadcast to about 140 countries in 2013 by affairs Liberty All-around Plc’s Chellomedia for about $1 billion.
Mr. Sapan, AMC CEO back 1995, in some agency seems like a appearance on one of the company’s quirkier shows. His office, which sits beyond from Manhattan’s Penn Station, is busy with two boxlike Emerson television sets from the 1950s that attending like they accord on the set of “Mad Men.” He afresh wrote a composition about New York City’s subways that was printed on postcards and awash at the New York City Transit Museum. He claims to be the world’s better beneficiary of aged lightning rods, with added than 100.
This year, Mr. Sapan has abnormally aerial hopes for two new shows, “The Son,” the adventure of a ancestors of Texas oil barons, starring Pierce Brosnan, and “The Terror,” about a Royal Navy campaign aggregation attacked by a abstruse predator. They’re allotment of a advance to access AMC’s hours of aboriginal programming by 25%.
AMC now owns a flat that makes abounding of its shows, like “The Walking Dead” and “Halt and Catch Fire,” so it owns the rights and profits from affairs old seasons. That’s a risk, back the aggregation will blot the draft if a affairs flops. “But if you own the shows and you acquisition a amount of success, you accept greater rewards,” Mr. Sapan said.
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