AMC+ Slow Subscriber Growth Means Millions Are Missing Great Shows

If the decision to subscribe to a streaming service depended solely on the quality of the streamer's content, then AMC+ should be near or at the top of the food chain.

But it is not, according to published reports last week that said the streaming service and AMC Networks in general is struggling.

That's too bad because the TV Blog has consistently reviewed AMC/AMC+ shows with sky-high thumbs-up.

AMC/AMC+ may, in fact, be the best-reviewed cable and streaming service over all other networks and content providers in the recent history of the TV Blog.

I'm a fan. And I was surprised at the stories last week about the struggles of the parent company, AMC Networks, most of which were blamed on slow or no growth in the streaming space.



Among other things, the market value of AMC Networks -- whose properties include AMC, AMC+, Sundance and others -- has fallen 80% in the last five years to just under $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal said.

Understandably, given the size of AMC compared to much larger competitors in the streaming and basic-cable space, subscriptions grow slower and lower for AMC+.

The WSJ story put AMC's subscriber count for AMC+ and the company's other niche streaming services such as Sundance Now, Shudder and Acorn TV at around 11.1 million. The same story said AMC projects subscribership of 20-25 million by 2025.

Separately, MediaPost reported on Friday that AMC Networks’ ad revenue declined 12% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The stories about AMC's misfortunes were part of the news last Thursday that AMC Networks Chairman James Dolan had named his wife, Kristin Dolan, as the company's new CEO. The two are separated, but are said to maintain a cordial relationship.

The stories indicated that she will be tasked with improving the company's profit picture, which may mean reining in costs.

And where are most of the costs for this company centered? In the creation of content, especially quality content on a high level. Quality costs money.

AMC emerged as a serious player in the quality-TV arena starting with “Mad Men” in 2007 and continuing with “Breaking Bad” in 2008. The two shows are among the finest ever made for television.

Then there was the “Walking Dead” zombie phenomenon, which started in 2010. For a time, “The Walking Dead” drew the biggest audiences in all of television for a scripted drama. AMC was on the map.

Then the TV world drifted into streaming -- and AMC took a look at its ability to develop quality shows that people watched and talked about.

The company decided to leverage its reputation for high-quality content to go out on its own with its own streaming service at the same time that the industry's biggest mega-companies were launching their own too -- Disney, Viacom (now Paramount), Comcast, Warner and Discovery.

They had content tonnage to spare and the scale to offer something for just about every audience segment.

AMC would rely on quality, not quantity, and that meant doing what it had always done -- namely, developing scripted TV shows for an adult audience.

And they are still doing it. Only, they are apparently not meeting their subscriber and profit goals in the process.

The many millions who have bypassed AMC+ in favor of spending their streaming-subscription dollars elsewhere are missing a lot.

The TV Blog's reviews of AMC+ shows only scratch the surface, because one TV critic cannot possibly review everything.

But I got to a lot of them. Just in 2022 alone, I gave raves to six new AMC+ series, including “The Suspect,” a murder mystery starring Aiden Turner of “Poldark”; the moon-colonizing drama “Moonhaven”; and “Dark Wind,” the series set in 1971 about a sheriff in the southwest whose work has him straddling the boundaries between U.S. and Native-American territory.

Others that received enthusiastic reviews here in 2022 were the Cold War thriller “The Ipcress File”; the Chicago cop drama “61st  Street” starring Courtney B. Vance, and the stylish Western series “That Dirty Black Bag,” starring Dominic Cooper.

Cooper had already starred in two other AMC+ dramas that received raves here -- the Cold War drama “Spy City” in 2021, and “Preacher” (2016), about a stranger who comes to a small town claiming to be man of the cloth.

In addition to “Spy City,” the TV Blog in 2021 praised “Firebite,” the AMC+ series about vampire hunters in the Australian outback; “Anna,” a timely post-pandemic drama imported from Italy; the Irish mob series “Kin”; and the comedy “Kevin Can Go F**k Himself” (although the TV Blog once again took up the cudgel against TV’s overuse of the f-word).

Before 2021, the list of great AMC/AMC+ shows reviewed here included another mob series, “Gangs of London” (2020); “Quiz” (2020) about a 2001 quiz show scandal in the U.K.; “Dispatches From Elsewhere” (2020) about a group of strangers drawn into a mysterious scavenger hunt in Philadelphia; the quirky “Lodge 49”; “The Terror,” a maritime thriller on a ship in 1845; and the modern mob series “McMafia.”

The monthly subscription price of AMC+ is $8.99, inexpensive when it comes to streaming subscriptions today. The price goes down to $6.99 a month for a one-year subscription of $83.88.

So what's the problem here?

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