Small screen amc delves deeper into nonfiction series static electricity examples


The push has been accelerated by rapid shifts in the TV industry. Adding lower-cost unscripted fare will give AMC more hours of original programs, which has become a necessity as cable networks are fighting to keep video-streaming consumers from dropping or slimming down their pay-TV subscriptions.

“It’s hard to make really good scripted television and it’s expensive,” said David Madden, who became president of original programming for AMC, Sundance TV and AMC Studios last year after a long stint at Fox’s TV operation. “For a network to have a broad enough portfolio to keep the audience watching it, we need more unscripted programming.”

The pivot to unscripted television has been subtle as the network has kept its projects in line with its signature programming. AMC’s reality series “Ride With Norman Reedus” features the “Walking Dead” star touring the country on his Triumph Tiger motorcycle and will begin its third season this year.

AMC, which once stood for American Movie Classics, has long been the home of the “ Godfather” movie franchise, and used that association to launch “Making of the Mob,” an original miniseries that mixed documentary footage with reenactments to tell the history of organized crime in the U.S.

Such nonfiction fare is much cheaper to produce — about 75 per cent less than the budget for a scripted program, which typically costs more than $5 million an hour. AMC’s additional unscripted shows also are displacing its theatrical movies, which have become more widely available on streaming services.

The six-episode documentary series features the director of “Aliens,” “Terminator” and “Avatar” getting together with a few of his friends (including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and Guillermo del Toro) to explore the genre they helped build over their careers.

“This is something I have imagined doing many times over the years,” Cameron told The Times. “I was kind of inspired by Martin Scorsese’s series on film noir. He was so knowledgeable on that subject that having his voice lead us into that realm was pretty fascinating. I said, ’Why don’t we do that with science fiction?’ If this succeeds, I can see doing a heck of a lot more.”

With Cameron in the fold, AMC has been able to line up other big names to front documentary series under the “Visionaries” banner. Director Eli Roth is set to do a history of horror, while Questlove, drummer for the Roots, has signed on to explore the story of hip-hop.

Over the years, its live “aftershows” — water-cooler chats hosted by Chris Hardwick that follow the first runs of the episodes of its biggest hits — have become a staple of the channel. (The “Talking Dead” session that ran after the Season 8 premiere of “The Walking Dead” last year drew 3.1 million viewers in the 18-to-49 age group.)

AMC is expanding the concept with a new live talk show that will air after “Dietland,” the network’s upcoming scripted series with Julianna Margulies that sends up the beauty and weight-loss industries. The network is hopeful the feminist revenge fantasy launching on June 4 will become part of the current public discourse over the empowerment of women spurred by the #MeToo movement.

“The dual purpose is to support the show, to connect the fans with this new completely groundbreaking show for AMC, and then 1/8have3/8 really a much broader conversation on the #MeToo movement that is not being serviced on television,” Madden said.

AMC’s live aftershows are also an incentive to watch the network’s scripted series live when they run with a full load of commercials. Goldberg says having a live conversation run right after the airing of an episode helps preserve the habit of showing up to watch at a set time each week so fans can discuss the shared experience with their friends.

Michael Morris, a financial analyst for Guggenheim Securities who follows AMC’s parent company AMC Networks, says most cable networks face an uphill battle against Netflix and its ability to provide a huge amount of content without commercials and at a price that is well below the typical pay-TV subscription. But he said AMC’s nonfiction strategy can be effective.

AMC executives are aware that binge-watching shows is a reality and have started to adapt their business to the trend. All six episodes of “AMC Visionaries” with Cameron can be viewed starting Monday on AMC Premiere, the service launched last year that offers the network’s programming on demand and commercial-free for an additional monthly fee.

Meanwhile, the network’s signature show, “The Walking Dead,” is showing signs of age in its eighth season. While still the top drama on TV for viewers younger than 50, the show has seen its audience decline 30 percent from last year. Still, Madden says there is plenty of life left in the series and there is no discussion of winding it down.