AMC CEO Lays Out 2015 Priorities, Talks ‘Doctor Who’: ‘It Could Last a Goddamn Lifetime’

UBS Conference: Josh Sapan touts the value of his networks simply having “good stuff”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 07: AMC Networks President and CEO Josh Sapan speaks onstage during day two of TheWrap TheGrill 2014 at Montage Beverly Hills on October 7, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images)
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Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks, laid out his plan for 2015 at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference on Tuesday, while sharing his excitement for upcoming programming — such as “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” — and touting the staying power of his company’s semi-absorbed “Doctor Who.”

At several times during the one-hour interview, Sapan dumbed down the many reasons for his main cable channel’s success to just having “good stuff.” He purposely went super-basic on that categorization, not wanting the value of simply having quality content to get lost under industry vernacular.

On the aforementioned “Doctor Who,” the first execution priority Sapan listed for the upcoming calendar year was managing the 1,000 new employees that AMC Networks suddenly inherited outside of the United States, based on its 49.9 percent purchase of BBC America.

And on the show itself — which is entering its remarkable 51st season — Sapan quipped, “It could last a goddamn lifetime.”

Also requiring continued international integration in 2015 is the evolution of what was previously called Chellomedia and is now known as AMC Networks International, the executive said.

But still, “The more ongoing and fundamental part of our business is content creation here in the U.S,” Sapan admitted.

And then there are the usual executive priority suspects, which the networks’ chief ran through quickly: Creating and extending affiliate agreements, selling advertising effectively, and building up, maintaining, and continuing to improve staff and infrastructure.

Sapan also took some time on Tuesday to modestly boast about his company’s decision to sell properties to Netflix and other SVOD platforms, which he foresaw years ago as offering the best “windowing” and play pattern for his channels’ growth.

His thesis was, “Let’s try and have our cake and eat it too,” Sapan explained.

In other words, AMC got to sell their property, maintained a lengthy enough window in-between availability across the two different ecosystems, and foresaw that they could grow an audience for live viewing by allowing people to catch up via binging elsewhere.

The play sure worked for “Breaking Bad,” and is still paying massive dividends for “The Walking Dead.” As “Mad Men” winds down, surely binge-watchers were catching up almost at the exact time as Sapan’s one-man panel.

On “The Walking Dead’s” tremendous ratings achievements — including topping the NFL on several Sunday Nights — Sapan summed up how pleased he was with a joke.

“If I wasn’t a zombie lover when this all began, I’m a zombie lover now,” he concluded.