Shifting Screens: AMC’s Streaming Struggles and Ad Tech Evolution

Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira at the premiere of AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Season 9 held at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles, USA on September 27, 2018.

As the streaming era changes TV consumption, AMC Networks adapts by focusing on high-quality content and innovative ad tech solutions.

Streaming’s rise is drastically changing TV consumption, and cable companies are pivoting to join the revolution. But even the streaming era is birthing many new CTV challenges, and consumer concern over subscription cost is a major factor. On top of that, cable companies need to find new ways to generate revenue.    

Like many other cable programmers, AMC Networks faces cord-cutting obstacles, declining linear viewership, and reduced ad revenue as brands shift to streaming platforms. In response, AMC developed a streaming distribution system to complement cable and an ad tech system to provide media buyers with automation, targeted data, and ROI.

AMC’s established reputation for producing high-quality scripted dramas such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead bolsters these efforts. 

“Content remains a significant distinguishing factor for AMC networks,” stated Kim Kelleher, AMC’s Chief Revenue Officer, to Broadcasting+Cable.

In addition to showcasing upcoming shows and innovative ad tech solutions at its upfront presentation for advertisers, AMC will introduce ad-supported versions of more subscription streaming services and increase production through its Content Room branded content unit, offering sponsorship opportunities for advertisers.

AMC Network’s New Sales and Revenue Outlook

In 2023, AMC reduced programming expenses, and this year’s production will match last year’s. The company plans to inform upfront buyers about expanding its zombie, vampire, and witch universes and introducing new series like Nautilus, which offers a fresh perspective on Captain Nemo.

Concurrently, AMC aims to reverse declining ad sales. Domestic ad sales plummeted by 20% to $634 million in 2023. Executives emphasized their commitment to long-form, premium dramas, contrasting with competitors prioritizing quick production and reality shows.

With content now accessible through 30 endpoints, the media company is experiencing record viewership levels. AMC’s advanced insights and data-targeting platform, Audience Plus, allows transactions across all endpoints, reaching 91 million homes and garnering an average of 480 million hours of viewership monthly.

Evan Adlman, executive VP of commercial sales and revenue operations at AMC Networks, highlighted that 72% of AMC’s national linear footprint is addressable-enabled, with 40% programmatically accessible. He emphasized AMC’s readiness to collaborate with advertisers to leverage its platform.

Despite viewers shifting to nonlinear platforms, AMC’s ability to monetize content on these platforms lags. Adlman acknowledged this and stressed their gradual shift towards monetization on new distribution endpoints.

Although some marketers hesitate due to measurement problems, Adlman reassured that those targeting strategic audiences trust AMC’s measurement and verification methods. He urged more industry players to embrace these capabilities.

Content Is King 

AMC is not the only publisher who needed to pivot due to changing times. At PubForum Montreal in 2022, Former Complex President Justin Killion highlighted how new plans for diversifying and distributing content  allowed them to evolve and thrive through changing times. For instance, Complex was originally a print magazine that expanded to online publishing and eventually into streaming, producing original content for Netflix, HBO, and Amazon. The new content brought in new audiences and new advertisers to target those audiences. 

AMC is in a similar boat and admits they are still adjusting to the streaming era. Yet, they still trust in the power of their content to win over consumers and advertisers. Despite the increasing influence of programmatic buying, AMC recognizes the importance of acquainting clients and agency executives with its content.

“Our shows are our primary assets,” Kelleher emphasized. “They attract the audiences advertisers desire.”

Kelleher anticipates that advertisers will seek flexibility and diverse transaction methods in response to evolving market preferences. She believes this approach will help them align better with the new market dynamics in CTV. 

While AMC is optimistic about the economy, there is still a need for increased advertising volume and confidence in spending. However, the traditional upfront model of committing dollars and guaranteeing inventory and pricing well in advance may not suit everyone anymore, further emphasizing the power of the pivot.