Mad, Mad World: AMC Nets COO Carroll Dishes on Distribution

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With "Mad Men’s" 17-month hiatus coming to an end Sun, we sat down with one of the men behind not just AMC but all of the AMC Networks. COO Ed Carroll discussed the premiere, AMC’s recent carriage dispute with Suddenlink (a blackout was averted shortly before the contract expired) and AMC’s sibling nets. After a few fireworks with Suddenlink, how is it going overall with affiliates? You’ve been public about trying to reset the rate card for AMC. You have renewals coming up all the time. We’re glad we got the Suddenlink renewal completed with minimum disruption. They’re a great affiliate. Generally, consistent in all our affiliate conversations is the fact that AMC is a top-tier service. The investment in our programming and its success more than justifies our 75-cent rate card. Those are the conversations we’ve been having. And they are proving to be productive. Can you say what percentage of deals you have left to do? I can’t do that. Should we take Suddenlink as a sign that there might be more flare-ups to come? I don’t think particularly. Every negotiation is its own thing. We have great relationships with our affiliates. I really do have to say, there is acknowledgement of what AMC has accomplished. In the history of basic cable, you’d be hard-pressed to find a network that has had the success ratio that we’ve evidenced. Our distributors understand that because they’ve benefited from it too. What’s the brand identity for AMC? You have very different shows. Is it just that content needs to have a cinematic feel to it? Great stories and great storytelling. You identified a cinematic approach, which we do think is important. When we got into originals 5 years ago, the watch word was distinction. We wanted to do programming that had a different feel and different look than dramas you commonly see on broadcast or even many of the cable channels. Now in our development process, we’re looking for great stories that we think are very well told and in a distinctive manner. Will the Mad Men love still be there? I certainly think so. Since I’ve been at AMC Networks/ Rainbow, the 2 most-anticipated programming events happen to be occurring within 1 week of each other. [In our chat, 3 days before "The Walking Dead's" Season 2 finale, Carroll correctly predicted it would be "among the highest-rated dramatic episodes ever on basic cable, if not the highest, among adults 18-49."] Don Draper is definitely back in all his paradoxical glory. How is it going in getting the entire family of nets to see AMC-like success? In 2012, the original hours on WE grow by about 25%. "Braxton Family Values" happens to be #1 on Thurs night among all the women’s nets. We build on that momentum. IFC seems to have hit a bit of a sweet spot among men 18-34 with a show called "Portlandia." We have a number of new series that builds on that pipeline. We are laying some big bets on Sundance Channel. Like we did 5 years ago with AMC, we’re exploring scripted and we’re in pre-production for a series called "Rectify," which is about a guy released from prison after spending years on death row… We feel it will set a new plateau for Sundance. We love the brand and have found it has great appeal to top artists. Where are you with TV Everywhere? We’re a big supporter. We think it’s vital. And it’s important we realize value on any platform that we’re distributed on. We’re in various stages of conversations, but we’re not set to announce anything just yet. Talk about a long hiatus. When are you going to do a sequel to your "Mad Men" parody video in which you played a 1960s cable salesman? If Jon Hamm has his way, never. (Missed the video when it debuted at CTAM Summit in ’08? We have it for you here: http://www.cablefax.com/video/32574.html)

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