the streaming wars

AMC Shows Will Start Haunting Max

Fear the Walking Dead is one of several AMC series that will soon “pop up” on Max. Photo: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

It’s not TV, and it’s not HBO: It’s AMC+ on Max. Starting this Friday, Warner Bros. Discovery–owned Max will begin streaming seven current and library series imported from theoretical rival AMC, including the first seasons of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Dark Winds and the first seven seasons of Fear the Walking Dead. The collection of roughly 200 episodes — which will be branded as “AMC+ Picks on Max” — is not taking up permanent residence on Max. Instead, the two companies are calling the arrangement a “programming pop-up,” one that’s scheduled to run through October 31. But while this stunt will last just two months, it might not be the only time we see streamers blurring the lines between platforms.

While it might seem odd that AMC would take some of the key content from its main streaming platform and plop it on another paid subscription service, the size disparity between AMC+ and Max sort of makes this a no-brainer. The WBD streamer is in more than 50 million U.S. homes, about five times as many as the number AMC+ reaches. That means Max will essentially help market AMC+ for two months, with little risk of AMC losing current subscribers, since none of the seven series spotlighted in the pop-up will offer current seasons. There’s also potentially a big upside for specific AMC titles: While Fear the Walking Dead is just a few weeks away from ending its run, Vampire and Dark Winds are both young shows with potentially several seasons left in them (Vampire begins season two next year, and Winds is waiting word on a third season). Dan McDermott, the president of entertainment content at AMC Networks and head of AMC Studios, said the hookup with Max was part of the company’s strategy of meeting audiences in multiple locations and not just via AMC+. “Our goal is to bring these shows to as many people as possible, in ways that best serve viewers,” he said.

The upside for Max also seems pretty clear: During the spooky season months of September and October, the streamer will suddenly have access to seasonally appropriate series such as Vampire, Dead and A Discovery of Witches, along with the horror-adjacent four season run of Killing Eve. And per a source familiar with the agreement, because the two-month event is being viewed as a marketing effort, no money is involved in the transaction between Max and AMC Networks. In other words, Max is getting hundreds of hours of new programming, and the only cost is server bandwidth and potentially helping AMC+ sign up some new subscribers. (For the record, the other shows headed to Max for two months are the first two seasons of Gangs of London and five seasons of reality show Ride with Norman Reedus.)

While the arrangement between two rival steamers almost certainly would not have happened three years ago when companies were all looking to build their own self-contained streaming universes, the recent industry correction has forced those same companies into a new sense of platform agnosticism. HBO, for example, is once again licensing its library titles to Netflix, while NBCUniversal sold streaming rights to its light drama Suits to Netflix as well, collecting a chunk of cash and a major boost to the show’s brand profile. We might also see more deals which erase lines between individual streamers, too, as companies look to bring back the idea of bundling. Last year, for example, Hallmark Media did a deal with Peacock to put its cable movies and series on the streamer for a three-day window after their TV premiere — even though Hallmark has its own in-house streamer. It’s too soon to say if anything like that might happen with AMC Networks and Max, but you can bet both companies will be studying their respective data to see how their September-October fling plays out.

AMC Shows Will Start Haunting Max