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Upfronts 2017: AMC Adding Data to Its Scripted Story

AMC Networks wants upfront advertisers to know that if they’re looking for original scripted content, they’re in the right place.

And if they want to use data to optimize their ad campaigns, AMC Networks has a unique new offering for a handful of clients. AMC Networks has hired former Dish Network executive Adam Gaynor as VP of advertising and data solution sales. In addition to leading the team selling AMC and SundanceTV, Gaynor will help AMC establish its data-driven ad sales business.

On April 6, AMC Networks will hold an event highlighting the programming on all of its networks—AMC, IFC, WE tv, SundanceTV and BBC America—for the first time. It will give media buyers a chance to break bread with the talent on screen and behind the scenes. In the last couple of years, AMC’s individual networks held smaller meetings with individual media agencies and clients.

Related: AMC Sets Big-Tent Upfront

At a time when people talk about peak TV, referring to the record volume of original shows being produced, AMC Networks says it offers the biggest chunk available to marketers.

“Much of the run up in original dramatic series has been on the streaming services or pay TV, which are not commercially supported networks,” said Ed Carroll, COO of AMC Networks. “In fact when you look at the share of audience for high quality drama, you will find that AMC represents about a third of it. Between AMC and FX, those two networks would represent almost half of it.”

By themselves, AMC’s networks have 34% of the ad-supported originals, based on live plus three day ratings among adults 18 to 49, Carroll says.

Even taking out The Walking Dead, the highest-rated scripted show on broadcast or cable, AMC Networks would still be number one, he adds.

“The most precious thing for advertisers is to be in a high-quality show that is creatively excellent and also speaking to a big audience and a passionate and engaged audience,” Carroll said. “That’s a rare thing and this company disproportionately is bringing that the market.”

Safe Content

The importance of being safely within quality content has been highlighted lately for advertisers that have been pulling their ads from Google and YouTube after discovering their ads running adjacent to questionable content, adds Scott Collins, president of advertising sales at AMC Networks.

“Content really matters more than at any other time,” Collins said. “If that isn’t a testament to what people are writing their checks to run in and how important that is, I don’t know what else is.”

On the data front, Collins confirms that AMC had hired Gaynor, who spearheaded Dish’s advanced advertising initiatives, including addressable, interactive and programmatic advertising.

In part, Gaynor is replacing Ilene Danuff, who was promoted to senior VP of cross portfolio sales. In her new job, Danuff will encourage clients to buy across AMC’s five networks and get them to sponsor events and experiences, including participating in the Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards.

“We have a lot of experiential brand extensions that we feel are a big differentiator for us in this upfront,” Collins said.

Data is a big buzzword in the TV business these days, with most big programming companies offering a suite of data-driven products designed to help advertisers more efficiently and effectively reach target audiences that are more narrowly defined than the traditional Nielsen demographics, such as adults 18 to 49.

AMC has been building its approach more methodically and thoughtfully, Carroll says.

The company had built a system in-house that was designed to help it maximize its impressions when it promoted its own networks and shows. “The reverse engineering of this platform has created an opportunity for us to get into the data world,” according to Carroll.

AMC Networks and a pilot advertiser in the financial services industry last year began working together to use the platform. The advertisers helped AMC improve the platform’s performance.

“They have a rich, vast amount of first-party data and we were able to tap into that,” Carroll said. "We married it with the highest level of detail of Nielsen data that Nielsen sells, their respondent-level data, it’s very extensive.”

Carroll says the platform, which remains unnamed, can also tie in other types of data as well.

Slow Rollout

“In the upfront, we are approaching the market with a methodical approach in looking for category sponsors in for example quick-serve restaurants, telco, possibly theatrical, and as part of their commitment to AMC Networks, we will be offering up this platform,” he said.

One thing that differentiates the AMC platform from most other data products is that it not only optimizes an advertiser's schedule on AMC Networks but across its entire TV buy.

“It’s not telling people how to optimize AMC Networks, it actually is telling how to optimize their approach to the market. That’s really going to separate it from so many of the other products that are there,” said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios.

The platform takes information about where a client has been advertising from Nielsen Monitor-Plus and Ad*Views products and looks at how that could have been optimized.

“You start seeing what kinds of things are popping and use that for a future campaign. These are real, actionable learnings that we have with this particular pilot advertiser, so much that they want to continue it,” Collier said.

The platform includes an algorithm to project the best way to optimize going forward.

“What’s remarkable about the predictive algorithm is with each learning experience it’s gotten better and stronger,” Collier said. “It’s not a one size fits all approach. It’s very much customizable from a targeting point of view, but also you can look back to look forward which is pretty remarkable.”

The platform tells the story with intuitive graphics, Collins says.

“The speed of the platform, whether it’s doing reach and frequency and remixing and eliminating duplication between networks, you hit a button and in seconds you get the results for something that would take weeks of man hours to do currently. It’s IBM-based and very powerful and we’re really excited.”

Ad revenues for AMC Networks’ domestic networks rose 4.8% to $991 million, according to the company’s earnings report.

Despite the healthy gain, some Wall Street analysts are concerned that ratings for the company’s biggest show, The Walking Dead, have been trending lower.

AMC plans to make a big deal of the launch of season 8 of The Walking Dead, which will kick off with the show's 100th episode.

The company will also fill a room with stars, producers and directors of the other shows on its networks.

Those shows include:

Into the Badlands, Better Call Saul and Preacher on AMC, as well as new shows The Son with Pierce Brosnan, The Terror with Mad Men’s Jared Harris and Lodge 49.

IFC just premiered the comedy Brockmire, Stan Against Evil returns later this year and the network will air the final season of Portlandia in 2018.

WE tv has Mama June: From Not to Hot and Dr. Miami, plus a new addition to the Growing Up Hip Hop franchise based in Atlanta. There’s also a new Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition.

Orphan Black returns for its final season on BBC America along with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Dr. Who. Top Gear America revs up later this year plus there’s a Doctor Who spinoff in the works featuring the doctor’s students. Planet Earth II just wrapped.

On SundanceTV, Hap and Leonard recently returned and upcoming is a new season of Top of the Lake with Nicole Kidman joining Elisabeth Moss. SundanceTV also has Liar, starring Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey in the pipeline.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.