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Collier Holds Court at AMC

9/08/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

In the months to come, AMC viewers can expect the basic-cable movie service to make its mark in other platforms under the direction of Charlie Collier.

As expected, Collier, the former ad-sales head for Court TV, was named general manager of AMC, and will oversee the network’s day-to-day operations, reporting to Rainbow Entertainment Services president Ed Carroll.

Collier, who officially starts his new job today, is charged with enhancing the AMC brand through marketing, advertising and programming strategies across multiple platforms, according to officials at parent Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.

FILLS A VOID

Collier had been Court TV’s executive vice president and GM of ad sales before getting caught up in that network’s purchase by Time Warner Inc. and its integration into the media giant’s Turner Broadcasting System Inc. unit.

At AMC he fills an executive post that has been vacant since June 2003. That’s when 14 executives at Cablevision Systems Corp., which owns Rainbow, were let go amid a probe of accounting irregularities at the company.

“AMC’s ratings had hit historic levels during the last three years. In addition, AMC already has two senior executives in place, with [executive vice president] Rob Sorcher running programming and [senior vice president] Linda Schupack running marketing. So I had the luxury of time in deciding on the right general manager,” said Carroll.

Collier arrives as AMC is on a roll. The network rode the strength of its first-ever original telepic Western miniseries, Broken Trail, to a network ratings record 1.2 household average in primetime during June.

During their premieres on June 25 and 26, the Robert Duvall-Thomas Haden Church vehicle averaged a 7.7 household rating and 9.7 million viewers, making it the second most-watched cable movie in more than a decade.

A 1.13 household average followed in July, the network’s second-best monthly performance, while AMC in August averaged a 0.9 primetime rating and green-lit production on its first original drama series. The network ordered 13 one-hour episodes of Mad Men from Lionsgate, a series focusing on the personal and professional lives of New York advertising executives circa 1960; it’s expected to bow next summer.

“I’m very excited to be joining AMC. The brand is in a great place and enjoyed tremendous success with its initial foray into original programming,” said Collier. “AMC has a lot of momentum.”

Collier said he and the executive team will explore a number of vehicles for AMC to drive.

“AMC is going to dive deeper. The product has never been stronger and we’re going to take the brand to many new platforms, including video on demand.”

VOD PREMIERE

In June, AMC put its boot on the video-on-demand path by offering The Making of Broken Trail to Comcast Corp. digital cable customers, two weeks before the behind-the-scenes show aired on the network. The film itself was later made available to Comcast’s on-demand service, replete with an opening billboard from Broken Trail’s presenting sponsor, Ford Motor Co. Ads were dynamically inserted in six markets, netting the operator hundreds of thousands of dollars in local ad revenue as well.

Broadband is another space in which AMC has yet to delve, but one that the network will look to mine under Collier’s leadership.

“The studios have taken a wait-and-see approach in terms of [video] rights to films. But they are now more open to hearing innovative and interesting ideas,” said Carroll, who noted that the production of original fare is “more conducive to developing content for other platforms.

Carroll said as “AMC is synonymous with film” it also would look to develop background and infotainment fare for the broadband realm.

Prior to working at Court TV — where he developed and implemented return-on-investment metrics that were used to trigger deals with several agencies for their clients — Collier held senior positions at Oxygen Media and A&E Television Networks.

While Collier made a name for himself with ad-selling innovations like ROI, his goal won’t be centered on the sponsor side of the business or on expanding the network’s inventory load, which currently provides for eight national minutes per hour.

“AMC is at the bottom when it comes to [commercial] clutter. We’re pleased with where we stand in terms of ad sales. [Rainbow ad sales president] Arlene Manos is one of the best in the business,” said Carroll. “Charlie’s focus is going to be on programming and marketing.”

To that end, Collier has already conferred with key members of the executive team: “I’ve had a lot of meetings with Rob Sorcher and Linda Schupack. There’s a great team in place.”

ADDING ORIGINALS

As AMC expands into other forms and moves toward a lineup that will one day feature about 10% original fare, Collier believes that the net’s primary theatrical thrust will continue to build Nielsen numbers as some key competitors have decreased their reliance on films as major staples of their primetime lineups.

“AMC has a large, diverse slate of films that span the decades; the product is performing well,” Collier said. “Our format is well-positioned as other key players like TBS and TNT have left the [theatrical] business in favor of sitcoms and dramas.”

AMC over the last three years has aired about 4,000 films annually, according to a Rainbow spokesman.

September