AMC Networks Expects to Launch Ad-Supported AMC+ Tier in 2023

AMC Networks is the latest of the nation’s big TV companies to work to marry advertisers to viewers in a venue that breaks most of TV’s long-standing rules.

The company, best known for cable networks like AMC, IFC and BBC America, expects to launch an ad-supported tier of its AMC+ streaming service later in 2023, according to Kim Kelleher, the company’s chief commercial officer. The new offering will feature a “light” ad load that executives say is in keeping with standards currently set at other services, but the intention is to help marketers weave themselves into and around programming in bespoke fashion, Kelleher says.

“We will place ads in ways that are not disruptive, that are really thoughtful,” says the executive. “Some movies will have no ads. Some movies may have a mid-roll, or some will have a pre-roll. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and we get to be very careful” in how we place commercials in viewers’ streaming choices. AMC+ subscribers will get access to all content, no matter their choice, she adds. “It will be the same product on both tiers. We are not going to take series and movies people expect to watch and say that you only get them if you pay more,” she says. “We want this to be a great viewer experience.”

The company, which already places commercials in various FAST and video-on-demand products, is trying to expand its offering at a moment when many big media companies are hoping for a surge in ad spending. A roiling stock market and fears of a recession have spurred much of Madison Avenue to pull tighter on purse-strings, but executives from a range of media companies have pointed to expectations of better activity in the second half of this year. “We are seeing scatter [ad buys] from key categories ticking up at the end of the first quarter and we are seeing direct response prices start to tick up,” says Kelleher. “These tends to be indicators of the marketplace, and marketers feeling more confident about the dollars they are spending.”

AMC Networks will pitch the new streaming ad tier and other services at an event Tuesday with top ad clients and media buyers. The company does so under some pressure. In November of last year, James Dolan, AMC’s chairman, told employees the media conglomerate’s streaming efforts were not working as well as they needed to. “It was our belief that cord cutting losses would be offset by gains in streaming. This has not been the case,” Dolan said in a memo. “We are primarily a content company and the mechanisms for the monetization of content are in disarray.” AMC Networks laid off staff and parted ways with its then-CEO, Christina Spade.

Since that time, the company has named a new CEO, Kristin Dolan, James Dolan’s wife. She had been leading 605, a media analytics firm, and Kelleher expects her to use that expertise to guide how AMC Networks operates. “She knows a lot of people and had these pre-existing relationships that come through the advanced data side, which is where it is all going” in the industry, Kelleher says.

AMC continues to follow a strategy that makes its content available in as many ways as desired by consumers and advertisers, says Kelleher. “The days of us telling viewers when to watch, and where and how, are over. Let’s not keep pretending we are going to get them do do what we want, when we want, where we want.”

That said, AMC continues to believe in offering linear products as well as digital, and to back up its sales with data and analytics. AMC Networks will offer a new service called “Audience+” that will help advertiser examine how audiences are watching specific pieces of content across types of media. The technology was developed with Dolan’s 605.

The company also plans to expand work from its Content Room, a hub that works to provide advertisers with bespoke programming options. “Cooper’s Bar,” a short-form digital series produced in part by Rhea Seehorn, will open its second season with half-hour episodes that debut on IFC. “You Are Here,” a travel and memoir series hosted by actor Colman Domingo is slated to debut across AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and WE tv, starting on Juneteenth. Johnnie Walker is the integrated sponsor of the show.

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