Episodes of Evolution: Slow-burn Drama, High Speed Connection
Cable News spoke with Josh Sapan, President and CEO of AMC Networks, the company largely credited for changing modern television with groundbreaking slow-burning original scripted drama. An early adopter of VOD and a believer in working with OTT, Josh gives us an exclusive on TV’s second golden age. Josh gives us an exclusive on TV’s second golden age. Josh will join us this year at Cable Congress to give a keynote presentation. Check the event programme here.
1. It’s great to catch up with you, Josh. You’re considered a true cable pioneer on your side of the Atlantic. And on our side of the Atlantic, Europeans are rather familiar with your pioneering programming whether it is Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, the hipster-mocking comedy Portlandia, The Killing and most recently Rectify which we premiered this year in London at Cable Congress. Let’s start with what might be a tough question because it’s so obvious but, why cable? Why is cable such a good home to the new wave of must-see television in what you have termed TV’s second golden age?
I think that probably the best answer that I might provide is that cable has been able to pursue quality craft storytelling, writing, directing and casting without the compromise or the ambiguity of early on in the process being seized with a focus on how big the audience will be in week three. And that may sound like a smallish thing, and indeed some of our shows have got big audiences, but if they’re developed with anxiety about week three or week two and how big the audience is, it leads to what one sees in American broadcast television: There is very little that is seriously distinct. That’s not accidental because if you want a big, big audience it is riskier to follow the “great creative” and it is statistically more likely and better to follow degrees of formula. So I think that’s “why cable.”
2. Innovative ways of reaching audiences are not new to you as we know that you ran a mobile cinema project literally driving 16mm projectors around the Midwest in your younger days before you got into the cable business. Fast forward to today and your award-winning content is available on-air, online, on demand and mobile. As an early mover with VOD, can you tell us a bit about the strategy behind such wide availability for your content over so many platforms?