Title: VP, acquisitions, AMC/Sundance Channel Global
Gail Gendler oversees acquisitions for AMC Global and Sundance Channel. Both have been rolling out internationally, with AMC replacing the MGM Channel brand around the world in the past year. She tells TBI about what the network are searching for as MIPTV begins.
How do the channel propositions for AMC Global and Sundance Channel Global differ, and how do their needs differ?
AMC Global delivers viewers access, to some of the greatest original series from AMC in the USA, in many cases 24 hours after the US premiere. Later this year, AMC Global will premiere Fear The Walking Dead – the companion series to The Walking Dead – 24 hours after the US channel’s premiere as well as season two of Halt and Catch Fire 24 hours after the US.
Sundance Channel Global continues its successful programming model of premiere festival films plus edgy, indie-oriented original scripted drama. Sundance continues to focus on bringing a unique perspective to our audiences with series like The Red Road, Rectify, Babylon and The Honourable Woman – all of which have recently premiered on Sundance Channel’s global feeds.
How closely are they tied to their US counterparts?
The global networks provide an international pipeline for the domestic channels’ original content, but our goal is to provide more premiere original series, specials, and films to our audiences, so we will also acquire content on our own. This often provides regional customisation for our feeds. The same branding and creative elements are generally used to provide brand cohesion with the US channels.
Should producers and distributors be seeking out acquisitions people at a local level or is buying handled centrally? Who are the key buyers within your team? Are there different teams for different channels?
Buying for Sundance Channel Global is handled by a team in New York, while buying for AMC Global is undertaken in New York as well as in London, Budapest, Miami and Madrid. In London, Chris Sharp and Alina Florea lead the team, in Budapest Katalin Radoczy heads the team, in Madrid Pilar de las Casas takes the reins and Pablo Corona oversees the Miami-based buying. Each buyer has a bouquet of local channels they buy for in addition to AMC.
What’s the commissioning cycle – are there times of year you are focused on ordering original series?
We are always exploring the possibility of producing original scripted series for the global feeds. We don’t rely on a formal commissioning cycle as we look throughout the year at original series that we think will really resonate on the channels. We’ve had a number of internationally acclaimed, award winning, first run scripted series on Sundance. These include Endemol Shine’s series Utopia and The Hour, DCD’s minis The Slap, Rake and The Code and three seasons of Borgen.
How about acquisitions, are they local or pan-territory?
With AMC Global and Sundance Channel Global, we can acquire for all the global feeds or just one of the feeds – based on availability, windowing and budget. On the Sundance front, we’ve acquired films at the Sundance Film Festival and put them on air in a matter of months for a ‘Fresh From the Festival’ event. This stunt provides us with global premieres and allows us to showcase award winners from the festival.
What are you really looking for at the moment? Is there a genre or specific type of programme you have on your ‘shopping list’ or are there particular programming slots you are very focused on?
On the AMC side, we are always looking for the best feature films to supplement our series line up market to market. For Sundance, I am looking for opportunities for miniseries that we can possibly coproduce that fit our brand mission and global needs. I’m always looking for award winning films with directors who bring a new perspective to the screen, films with festival pedigree and critical acclaim that we can stunt for our viewers.
What will you be most focused on at MIPTV?
The goal at MIPTV is to find some unique opportunities to get in early on miniseries for Sundance’s global channels. It would be great to be able to expand our destinations on all the feeds for compelling, gripping dramatic series for our viewers.
What is the single most successful acquired show across your channels?
We have had a tremendous response to a variety of original programming across both networks. We launched AMC Global with Halt and Catch Fire and it was extremely well received by critics and fans around the world. For Sundance Channel, our originals such as Rectify, The Red Road and The Honourable Woman have all attracted enthusiastic attention from fans, press and our platform clients.
What acquired shows will you launch in the next few weeks/months?
AMC will launch the first season of Fear The Walking Dead on AMC Global later this year as well as the second season of Halt and Catch Fire. On the Sundance side, we just launched Season 2 of Red Road in April. Next up, we will air our exclusive ‘Fresh From the Festival’ titles on Sundance.
What should distributors know about your channels before pitching content?
For Sundance Channel, distributors should know that we are eager to find miniseries opportunities for the global feeds, smart features and award-winning documentaries that can premiere in market. We believe that our audience has an appetite for unique stories told in a cinematic way.
What types of on-demand rights do you require?
For AMC and Sundance Channel, we look for broad on-demand rights in part to fulfill expectations of our very media-oriented, tech-savvy viewers as well as to provide support for the needs of our platforms.
What sorts of windows are you buying for?
For franchise series on AMC and on Sundance Channel, we want premiere, in market exclusive linear and on-demand rights. We want to bring a series to a global audience within 24 hours of its US premiere – or premiere in any other territory – and by doing so, we hope to create a worldwide community of fans who will experience the series together.
What is the key challenge facing buyers in today’s market?
So many great shows, and never enough budget.