AMC Networks doesn’t foresee the coronavirus outbreak eating into TV upfront budgets, at least not yet.
“People are moving forward with business and we are not seeing any immediate impact due to what’s going on,” Kim Kelleher, president, commercial revenue and partnerships, AMC Networks, said in an interview on March 12.
AMC canceled its upfront presentation, which was slated for Wednesday evening, due to fears around COVID-19, but still has individual agency meetings on the calendar. “We have seen all of our meetings that were scheduled to happen in person are still happening either in person or on Skype calls,” she says.
“It was disappointing not to have a pulpit in which to preach to 700 people at the same time,” Kelleher says, but AMC is prepared with a micro-site to house all of its video content and allow agencies and marketers to engage with its upfront presentation.
“I walked into upfront planning thinking it will be strong and, despite what’s going on, I think that still could be the case,” she says. This is Kelleher’s first upfront overseeing AMC Networks’ ad sales, having joined the company in September from Conde Nast.
AMC’s upfront strategy is to put the audience first and bring advertisers to the viewer, wherever they may be watching.
Streaming will be a meaningful part of AMC’s upfront conversations as the company looks to put its content on multiple ad-supported platforms including Amazon’s IMDB, ViacomCBS’ Pluto and NBCUniversal’s Peacock.
“Our decision is to put content in as many places we consider quality for viewers to see it,” Kelleher says. “We know people want to watch our shows, it’s on us to figure out which distributions we need to be on to make sure they still can.”
Kelleher says this is in stark contrast to many other companies that are “taking their IP and pulling it back to SVOD or limited AVOD environments,” she says. “Our strategy is the exact opposite.” AMC’s view is that they “should consider any company that could offer mass scale.”
Kelleher predicts the traditional barriers between networks and history of not working with rivals in a collaborative way will “just fall away.”
But AMC is looking to partner only with platforms that give the company the ability to sell its own ads within a certain window. So instead of marketers calling each platform to buy inventory and hoping they will get AMC content as part of their buys, they would be able to go directly to AMC and ensure they are in their content.
AMC is also partnering with Reddit, where Kelleher says its audiences are going to talk about its shows, to create opportunities for advertisers to engage with these fans. As part of the deal, AMC will develop exclusive content, like videos and live-streaming, for Reddit around its “The Walking Dead” franchise and We TV shows like “Growing Up Hip Hop,” that brands will be able to own and be integrated into.
This is Reddit’s first entertainment partnership of this kind, according to Kelleher.
To help brands create custom campaigns for these various platforms, AMC is introducing a new branded content shop. Kelleher says creative will be built for specific audiences and platforms.
“Creative needs to be repackaged and re-thought as it moves from linear into streaming into social and into YouTube,” she says.
Kelleher says during this year’s upfront she will be asking advertisers to meet viewers where they are, rather than solely asking them to come to AMC-owned and operated platforms.
This will, of course, present challenges for both AMC and advertisers who have been wedded to legacy metrics and ways of doing business.
While AMC will allow marketers to transact however they need to, Kelleher is looking to loosen the restrictions around demographics. AMC will put 18-plus into the marketplace, rather than capping the demographic at 18-49. They will also look to introduce packages that allow AMC to pull the younger demo from streaming to make up for the shortfall on traditional linear TV.
AMC also announced that it joined OpenAP, the consortium working to standardize audience buying on TV. This comes after the company said it entered into a deal with AT&T’s Xandr last week to make its inventory available through its audience targeting tool.