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Netflix drives networks to gamble on quality programming, says AMC

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mad men (AMC credit)
mad men (AMC credit)

The popularity of Netflix and other video-on-demand (VOD) services lets AMC stick with shows like Breaking Bad despite modest ratings, says AMC CEO Josh Sapan. Variety reports that Sapan addressed the difference VOD makes to how it assesses a show's success at an event this week. "We don’t judge a show in five episodes because that’s not how consumers are consuming them," says Sapan. The CEO points to shows that are now widely perceived as successes, such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men, as having "modest" ratings in their first seasons, before growing in popularity through "a pattern of consumption and referral that happens over time."

"[The introduction of VOD has been] a fundamental boon to the ascendency of great drama."

In the past, shows such as Joss Whedon's Firefly, Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks, and FX's critically acclaimed Terriers have all been canceled without a second season. Thanks to the propagation of VOD services, AMC is able to compete with other networks with quality drama and high-budget series even if initial ratings are low. Breaking Bad's viewing figures raised 50 percent in its fourth season, and the numbers are still rising as it approaches its grand finale. Sapan accepts that it's not only AMC that benefits from VOD, noting that "the competitive frame is more challenging," but he believes that "the increasing ubiquity in the availability of these shows and the introduction of them on on-demand platforms has been a fundamental boon to drama and a fundamental boon to the ascendency of great drama."