By Aaron Dobbs | Indiewire October 31, 2013 at 12:43PM
But there is a long television history of hugely successful shows spinning-off series that don't receive the same love and admiration. Is there a sense of what these shows will be yet? Are you hoping to capture the exact same tones and ideas, or go in different directions? Or is it still too early in the development process to say?
Well, to your earlier question about bringing great talent together, Robert Kirkman, the creator of ["The Walking Dead"] comic book and the original series, has so much more story to tell, and he's excited to jump in. [Executive Producers] Gale Ann Hurd and Dave Alpert, all the folks who covet the original series as much as we do and also feel there's more story to tell are involved and active in the development process with us, so we feel great about it.
You've also developed an interesting strategy of half- or split-seasons, which you have now utilized or announced for all three of your biggest series. What were your main reasons for pursuing this strategy?
I think we've seen results from "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" -- and we obviously hope the same for "Mad Men" -- that presenting the series in this way really has played in to some of the questions you asked me earlier about event television. "The Walking Dead" is a perfect example: We come out in fourth quarter, and we support it with a premiere in and around AMC Fearfest.
Then we have a finale and take a break; Sunday nights are turned over to playoff football and the Super Bowl, and we come back with a second premiere and finale opportunity right after that. So for the viewer who again has a lot of choices for what to watch, what we're always trying to do is put the best stories in the right places to see them succeed.
Obviously we saw the benefits with "Breaking Bad" in letting viewers really savor the end of a series and catch up through a wide variety of platforms including on our own air through marathons, VOD and other vehicles. Every show is different, but we’re pleased we’ve been able to work with each show to do something special for all involved, starting of course with the viewers.
In the case of "Breaking Bad," it was an expanded final season of 16 episodes and many events on-air and off that served to send that iconic series off in style. With "Mad Men," we’re adding a 14th episode to give viewers a bonus episode and an even 7-7 split for this final season. And of course we'll be working closely with Matthew and the entire team to give this unparalleled series the sendoff it so richly deserves.
You've provided some showrunners with a great deal of freedom, but you've also found yourself in a few public spats with others. "The Walking Dead" has had three showrunners going into its fifth season, and "Hell on Wheels" got a new showrunner before its recently completed third. How would you describe your ideal relationship between a showrunner and network?
We're very pleased with where we are on "The Walking Dead" and "Hell on Wheels," but obviously every show and every situation is different. We’ve never entered into changes lightly, and everything we do is with the intention that it’s in service of the audience and in the best interests of the show. We’ve also been fortunate to work with some of the best showrunners and creative talents in the history of television -- Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan, to name two -- who brought their passion projects to AMC viewers, nurtured them on our air over five-plus seasons, and ultimately, both will have seen their remarkable series to conclusion on AMC. We take great pride in these unique partnerships, and we take our relationships with these, and all our showrunners, very seriously.
Your scripted series have been locked into a Sunday night schedule, which has become the most competitive night of television, probably in the medium's history. This year, you moved "Hell on Wheels" to Saturdays. Is the intent to keep programming Saturdays, which most networks stay away from these days?
Programming Sunday with scripted original series of quality year-round, being able to move "Hell on Wheels" to Saturday and dedicating Thursday to unscripted programming and events represents a significant positive change for the network. Moving "Hell on Wheels" for us was a totally logical and strategic decision. Historically, Saturdays have meant Westerns to AMC viewers, so we saw a unique opportunity to create an all-day experience for our loyal Western fans with a 15-hour thematic lead-in to an original series in their favorite genre.
While Saturday is widely considered tough sledding for TV shows, we just completed the third season of "Hell on Wheels," and not only did the audience for the show on Sunday follow it to Saturday - averaging 3.3 million viewers a week, with live plus three days of time shifting (something being on Saturday night also aided) - the show delivered double our previous prime time average on Saturday. We're very pleased.
Various media analysts like to focus on, "What's next for AMC?" "Breaking Bad" is gone; "Mad Men" nears its end, so they wonder if AMC can still present the next critical, transformational series? What's your reaction to those stories that seem to appear every few months, and while it's impossible to predict with certainty, do you feel you're currently developing your next "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men"?
I’ve been asked this question a lot, and my answer is always the same: These shows, specifically, are irreplaceable. They will always be a part of AMC and always receive appropriate credit for making AMC what it is today. That said, iconic programming has come and gone from many networks that have more-than-remained successful and dynamic businesses.
CBS will never replace "M*A*S*H" and "All in the Family," nor will HBO ever technically replace "The Sopranos" or "Sex in the City." But both have done very well not by replacing those specific creative initiatives but by continuing to do the work that got [those shows] to the network in the first place. We will do the same.
We have a number of projects in development that we’re excited about including two new series next year – "Halt and Catch Fire" and "Turn" -- but explicitly looking for the next "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" is never the way we will approach it.
Regarding "Halt and Catch Fire" and "Turn," this was the first time you've picked-up two pilots to series in the same year. Can we expect a ramping up of production, with more instances of two or more original series on air at the same time as you recently had with "Hell on Wheels," "Breaking Bad" and "Low Winter Sun"? And when can we expect to hear about the futures of "Hell on Wheels" and "Low Winter Sun"?
We’ve been ramping up our development process going back several years. We have more than 60 projects in development right now, across scripted and unscripted, and we will continue to aggressively develop new content.
We haven’t announced premiere dates yet for the second half of "The Walking Dead" or for "Mad Men," "Turn" or "Halt and Catch Fire," and we haven’t made any pickup decisions for existing series as of yet, with the exception of a fifth season of "The Walking Dead"; that was the textbook definition of a no-brainer. But we could potentially have multiple new series on at the same time in 2014, similar to 2013. We expect to have more to say across the board here over the next several weeks.