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AMC chief: technology has changed shape of TV drama

Technology including video-on-demand and digital video recording has helped change the shape and improve the quality of scripted drama on TV and allowed TV to partly supplant cinema as the home of truly original content, according to Josh Sapan, president and CEO, AMC Networks, delivering the opening keynote at Cable Congress this morning.

“What’s on cable is recognised as stronger than what is frequently broadcast, at least in the US,” said Sapan.
Sapan said TV remains key to the appeal of cable. “People have the strongest emotional connection to the bill they pay…when they’re talking about TV,” he said.

Sapan said advances in technology had given birth to the new form of scripted drama found on his channels. He said the ability to view content on demand and the DVR had enabled viewers to relate to this type of drama.

Sapan said that the growth of digital recording following the launch of TiVo, and video on demand, had changed modes of consumption. “This is particularly true with regard to scripted drama, especially in the US. Drama used to be sort of bland and easy to view so that if you were watching in the kitchen you could sort of follow along. But when these advances occurred, it allows these series to become more nuanced, with deeper and more immersive characters. This technology created a different mindset,” he said.

Sapan said that technology had enabled a “cinema mindset” to move to TV viewing. “When people sit down with a DVR, they sit down with their own schedule,” he said. “The TV has replaced the allowance for focus that used to be with the movies,” he said. “Cinephiles are being replaced with what you might call telephiles.”

Sapan said that critics and journalists were now more often writing about television that about cinema.

Consumption patterns are continuing to change, said Sapan, with ‘binge viewing’ growing, especially among younger groups, and this would also lead content to evolve.

While this was associated with SVoD services, Sapan said cable could benefit as windows evolved to allow more flexible distribution.

“We think content does offer something of an untapped opportunity to contribute to a triple or quad-play,” said Sapan.
Commenting on his company’s acquisition of Chellomedia, Sapan said that AMC was now sending its content to a wider range of channels around the world.