By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - AMC Networks Inc on Thursday will release a $5-a-month subscription option designed for pay TV customers who want commercial-free versions of shows such as hit zombie drama "The Walking Dead," company officials said.
Called AMC Premiere, the on-demand offering also includes movies and exclusive content such as deleted scenes or interviews with series stars and producers. At first, it will be available only to subscribers of Comcast Corp's Xfinity TV packages.
The move is a new example of how TV networks and distributors are trying to adapt to rapidly shifting viewer habits, particularly among young people who are flocking to on-demand and ad-free programing.
Unlike standalone streaming options from Time Warner Inc’s HBO and from CBS Corp, AMC's offering will be available exclusively to pay TV customers.
"It made so much sense to start where the viewers are," Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, said in an interview.
Reuters first reported AMC's plans for a commercial-free option in March.
Subscribers to AMC Premiere, which costs $4.99 per month, will be able to watch ad-free episodes of current network series starting as they debut on the cable channel. The programing will be watchable initially through an Xfinity set-top box or the Xfinity Stream website or app, and later on AMC's apps and its website.
AMC plans to expand the subscription option beyond Comcast to other pay TV providers, Collier said.
For Comcast, the largest U.S. pay TV operator, AMC Premiere adds to the growing stable of on-demand options the company offers to help retain customers.
"I don't think it's an option necessarily for everyone, but there is certainly a segment of passionate viewers and fans that I think they could find this very appealing," said Matt Strauss, Comcast's executive vice president and general manager of video and entertainment services.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)