AMC CEO Josh Sapan downplays tensions with programmers
AMC Networks Inc. Chief Executive Josh Sapan on Thursday downplayed all the recent scrutiny floating around the company's flagship cable channel, AMC, regarding tensions with producers of its high-profile shows "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead."
"With profile comes attention," Sapan said when asked about the high-profile negotiations with Sony Television for future episodes of "Breaking Bad" and the departure of a key producer of "The Walking Dead." Sapan made his remarks at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills.
Although Sapan did not elaborate on any of the drama going on behind the scenes of some of the network's most valuable dramas, he did say, "If a show succeeds ... generally there tends to be some tension about money."
In the case of "Breaking Bad," at issue was a new deal for a final season of the critically acclaimed series about a math teacher who becomes a meth manufacturer. AMC wanted to make far fewer episodes than Sony, but the two eventually found a middle ground and struck a deal.
With "The Walking Dead," the departure of Frank Darabont as executive producer was attributed to the network's desire to trim the budget of the costly show about zombies. Neither AMC nor Darabont have ever commented on the circumstances regarding his exit from the show.
That there were issues on both shows so soon after AMC made a lucrative deal to keep its flagship show "Mad Men" going for a few more seasons also led to speculation that the channel's spending on that hit meant the other shows were going to have to endure cuts.
Sapan did say AMC is undervalued, a sentiment shared by many industry analysts. Distributors pay about 25 cents per-subscriber, per-month to carry AMC, according to information from industry consulting firm SNL Kagan. Sapan said the channel deserves to get 75 cents per-subscriber, a fee that would put the channel in the same neighborhood as USA, Disney Channel and TNT.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: A scene from "Breaking Bad." Credit: Ursula Coyote / AMC