How AMC’s Charlie Collier Got a ‘Breaking Bad’ Meth Lab in the Smithsonian (Video)

AMC emphasized “ecosystem” of fans to propel “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” into TV stratosphere

Last Updated: July 26, 2017 @ 12:58 PM

Charlie Collier — President and General Manager of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios — had a specific goal in mind when developing high-end original content for the cable network.

“We talked about putting ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ in the Smithsonian — that was our goal by the end of those series, [because] they were so good we wanted to curate them,” said Collier in an interview with TheWrap’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman on Tuesday night. “And they are both in the Smithsonian.”

“What you think about is, there’s Archie Bunker’s red chair, and there’s Don Draper’s fedora, and there’s a meth lab,” continued Collier, drawing laughs from the crowd on hand at TheGrill Special Event at Montage Beverly Hills Hotel. “You’re welcome, America.”

The conversation touched on a myriad of topics, including AMC’s unexpected rise as a paragon of original content and an Emmy-powerhouse in Collier’s decade at the helm.

“In 2006, no one was saying AMC should be a leader in original programming,” said Collier. “This was at a time when we were airing ‘Cool Hand Luke’ on a loop.”

Collier credited AMC’s transformation on a shift from being a linear TV network to a “global entertainment company” developing “ecosystems” centered on its fans. This crystalized for Collier when he attended a packed “The Walking Dead” season premiere at Madison Square Garden in 2015, with fans posing with motorcycles and excited to see their favorite show.

“You could look at the ratings of ‘The Walking Dead,’ and I’ll be the first to say it’s the largest show on television, but it’s slightly down,” said Collier. “But if you look at the ecosystem of ‘The Walking Dead, it’s up. And it’s why the logic of really trying to look at your business as an orbit around the fan is so relevant.”

Building a business centered around the fan experience doesn’t take away from the unique nature of TV, according to Collier, but augments it.

“There’s something television does that no other media does,” said Collier. “When the finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ hits and 20 million people watch it all at once, that’s a pop culturally relevant moment that is different and more communal and more wonderful, and probably what got me into the business.”

To continue fostering its passionate fanbase, Collier debuted two new ‘Walking Dead’ rewards programs at TheGrill Special Event.  The Rewards Club allows fans to trade in the things they do while watching the shows, such as sharing content or creating fan art, for points. Then they can trade in the points for real-world prizes such as exclusive digital content, collectibles, merchandise or even experiences with cast members that could include a private set tour.

On developing a non-linear entertainment company, Collier said having a robust library is essential. He pointed to a talk he had with AMC interns, where he found out they weren’t watching the latest season of TV, but classic shows like “Friends” and “The Wire.” Quality shows are evergreen now.

And when Waxman pressed him on the notion of “peak TV” —  too much content at this point — Collier didn’t seem concerned.

“When I go into a supermarket, I never say ‘you know, there’s just too much food in here.'”