AMC Networks is expecting the return of its monster hit The Walking Dead to give a lift to its premium subscription service AMC Premiere.
AMC Premiere, which costs $4.99 a month and gives subscribers access to commercial-free versions of AMC’s series plus extras including bonus footage, sneak peeks of future episodes and exclusive behind-the-scenes features, launched with Comcast last June.
YouTube TV, though, has also agreed to distribute AMC Premiere. It will begin rolling out over the next few months. AMC continues to talk to other distributors about carrying the service.
While he wouldn’t provide specific subscriber numbers for Premiere, Mac McKean, executive VP of innovation at AMC Networks, said, “We’re happy with the response to date and we’re about where we expected to be in terms of the business.”
The return of The Walking Dead for the second half of its eighth season on Feb. 25 is “going to be a great moment for Premiere, and then that’s going to be followed by McMafia,” the upcoming British organized-crime drama, McKean said.
This past weekend, Comcast offered a free preview of AMC Premiere, giving Xfinity TV subscribers access to AMC’s current programs, including the first half of The Walking Dead’s current season.
AMC also is loading Premiere with exclusive Walking Dead content such as previews and features that should appeal to the show’s huge fan base. The first half of the interstitial featurette Red Machete has also been stitched together to make it easy to watch on Premiere.
After the first episode of McMafia debuts on the AMC linear network on Feb. 26, AMC Premiere subscribers will be able to watch all eight episodes, the first time AMC has enabled that kind of early binge watching for one of its series.
“We’re learning from our experiences and we’re fine-tuning the service, and so one of the things we’re going to try based on user feedback is to make a whole season of a show available starting with the day of premiere,” McKean said. “We think because it is so thrilling and suspenseful, it will be a good fit to make the entire season available as a binge for viewers.”
McKean said Premiere is designed to complement and extend the linear AMC — generating revenue and elevating the network’s shows within a new environment.
The subscription service also facilitates a direct connection with viewers and fans. “We’re talking to our users, to our subscribers, and we’re analyzing the data and we’re looking at what features and elements are resonating and are delivering on that promise,” he said. “And we’ll continue with that process through these new upcoming seasons.”
Features and Fixes
Features popular with early AMC Premiere users include the ease with which it can be accessed on any device and that the content plays in a premium manner.
Among the things AMC needs to fix is that viewers aren’t aware of much of the exclusive content offered. “You’re just not used to getting that,” McKean said. “People don’t know to look for it.”
Because AMC shows are already appointment viewing for fans, AMC Premiere viewing tends to peak as new episodes debut, even though on-demand viewers can watch whenever they want.
The most popular shows on Premiere have largely been the same ones as on the linear channel, although the older-skewing Revolutionary War drama Turn has shown some extra strength.
McKean said AMC Premiere does not seem to be stealing many viewers from ad-supported AMC: “Having an extension of linear like Premiere is raising the profile of both. When we promote Premiere, we’re promoting the shows.
“Comcast has been an incredibly great partner,” he added. “They’re supporting AMC as a whole, and that shows up in greater engagement with the network as a whole.”
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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.