Reeling in Ads

Against a backdrop of optimism about resolving the movie and TV writers' strike in time to stage a full Academy Awards show, AMC is bolstering its February programming stunt built around awards season — and bringing in sponsors to make it pay off.

AMC, which has been complementing its movie base with original series such as last year's Mad Men, has added more original programming and a centerpiece movie to the initiative this year. On Saturday, Feb. 16, AMC will air Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Letters From Iwo Jima, introduced by director Eastwood and followed by a making-of documentary.

Other original content includes three specials from Shootout talk-show hosts Peter Guber and Peter Bart; vignettes, sponsored by Celebrity Cruises, about current Oscar nominees and red-carpet moments; and an online survey of viewers' choices for classic moments, such as Classic Cowboy or Classic Kiss.

The stunt's theme is “Long, Live, Awards,” playing off AMC's tagline “The Future of Classic.”

General manager Charlie Collier said the Rainbow Media-owned service, with distribution into 94 million homes, has invested in making the February stunt one of AMC's “tentpoles” for the year. That's in addition to its longstanding “Monsterfest” stunt in October and its new original series, notably a second season of Mad Men and the current first season of Breaking Bad.

“It's definitely got a breadth and depth to it that we haven't had before, and we'll continue to take it from here and make it even bigger next year,” Collier said of the stunt, which in years past might have been limited to movie airings and “And The Nominees Are,” a programming special built around the current Oscar hopefuls.

Other sponsors involved in “Long, Live, Awards” include L'Oreal Paris, Acura and the bank chain Washington Mutual, according to Rainbow.

M&M's will sponsor primetime airings of Letters From Iwo Jima, the first two Godfather movies, The Matrix and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with introduction and interview content.

AMC also will air the edited rebroadcast (of an event televised by sister service IFC) of the 2008 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The Shootout Oscar Nominee Special is scheduled to air in primetime on Feb. 15 and again the morning of Feb. 24. Guests with Bart (the editor in chief of Variety, owned by Multichannel News parent company Reed Business Information) and Guber include actors George Clooney, Laura Linney and director Julian Schnabel. “We are the network that was at the Oscar nominee special,” Collier declared proudly last Tuesday, the day after the luncheon.

Turner Classic Movies, a commercial-free service, has long had an imprint on the February fun with “31 Days of Oscar,” which this year features movies ranging from 1927's Wings, the first Best Picture winner, to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which won in 2003. Both networks say the stunt helps them show off what they consider an industry-best movie library.

Collier said commercial-running AMC's centerpiece acquisition, Letters From Iwo Jima, epitomizes AMC's different approach. “What TCM does they do very, very well,” he said of the Time Warner Inc.-owned service. “But really what we're doing, we're defining the future of classic. And that really is a distinct differentiator. What we're really doing today is making it relevant today and moving forward. We feel really good about the breadth and depth of what we've brought to this.”

Responded a TCM spokeswoman: “The Oscars are tops in prestige, and Academy Awards showcase the history of Hollywood like nothing else. After 14 years, TCM's '31 Days of Oscar' has become a great tribute to the awards. Also, one of TCM's greatest attributes with fans is showing films uncut and commercial-free.”

Assuming the Writers Guild of America and the Hollywood studios can get their own deals together, the Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to air on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.