AMC Networks completed its $1B acquisition of Liberty Global’s Chellomedia in February. Today, it has announced a re-brand of the group to AMC Networks International. AMC Networks International will also encompass AMC/Sundance Channel Global, which operates in Europe, Latin America, the Mid-East and Asia. “Re-naming Chellomedia is a natural next step as we continue to integrate this portfolio of channels and transition AMC Networks into a global media company,” said AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll. AMCNI consists of six operating units: Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Iberia, Latin America, Zone (EMEA) and DMC. The latter is a European-based global media technology and distribution company. AMCNI delivers programming to subscribers in more than 140 countries and includes such global brands as Sundance Channel and MGM Channel, as well as local channels across various genres.
The four-year company veteran has been tapped as Executive-in-Charge of Owned Content Distribution and Strategy at AMC Networks. Marci Wiseman had been Head of Business Affairs at AMC. In her new gig, Wiseman will oversee expanding owned content across the company’s four networks, through non-affiliate distribution agreements including domestic SVOD and global syndication. “[Wiseman] has strategized and negotiated agreements beneficial to AMC with a broad array of partners,” COO Ed Carroll said, “and this new role is a perfect extension of her work at AMC and an opportunity to drive the strategic distribution of our content at home and around the world.”
The Shield alumna Catherine Dent has become the first series regular cast in AMC drama pilot Galyntine. Written by Jason Cahill, directed by David Mackenzie and executive produced by Scott Free and The Walking Dead‘s Greg Nicotero, the fantasy-action adventure with hints of sci-fi is set in a postapocalyptic future without technology where a band of survivors is forced to adapt to isolation and the challenges of their new world. Dent, repped by SDB Partners and manager Harris Spylios, will play one of the survivors, Haven, who lived through the global disaster with her two kids. Filming is set to begin in Utah next month. Dent recurs on Fox’s Gang Related.
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Global Showbiz Briefs: Rescued ‘Ripper Street’ Filming Season Three’; AMC Networks Ups Elana Mandelup To VP; More
Production Gets Underway For Season 3 Of ‘Ripper Street’
The 3rd season of Ripper Street started shooting today in Manchester, England. Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg are reprising their roles in the Victorian-era drama that was rescued by Amazon Prime Instant Video after a fan petition for its return after the BBC cancelled the show. MyAnna Buring (Downton Abbey) also is returning. In February, Amazon commissioned producers Tiger Aspect and Lookout Point with an eight-episode third season that will be available exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video members in the fall. The complete first season of Ripper Street is available on Amazon Prime now, with season 2 launching on the service on June 2. The series is filming in the UK for the first time, in Manchester and Loughborough, before moving to its traditional production base in Dublin, Ireland. It will continue to be co-produced in the U.S. by BBC America and will screen on BBC One a few months after it is available on Amazon in the UK. BBC Worldwide is distributing globally.
UPDATED: Ratings have been soft for AMC‘s Revolutionary War spy drama Turn, but it hasn’t run out of time yet. Execs “like what we’re seeing so far…it’s a feel thing,” COO Ed Carroll told analysts this morning. “We look at the show runner and the story arc; do we have a compelling story to tell.” He adds that Turn “will appear on the Netflix platform” although that won’t happen “for a while.”
PREVIOUS, 4:18 AM: The audience for the show about zombies increased 24% in its fourth season. But investors may be more interested today in the impact that newly acquired Chellomedia is having on AMC Networks. The programming company reported net income for Q1 of $71.4M, +16% vs the period last year, on revenues of $524.6M, +37.3%. That was comfortably ahead of the consensus analyst prediction of $507.5M. Still, adjusted earnings at $1.04 a share missed forecasts for $1.16. AMC’s hits helped to boost ad sales at the National Networks operation by 26.8%, while fees from cable and satellite companies increased 15.9%. As a result, the unit reported a 20.7% lift in revenues, to $448.7M, although rising costs limited growth in cash flow, at $177.7M, to 8%. Results were more volatile at the International and Other business, which added European programmer Chellomedia to AMC’s overseas channels and IFC Films. With the acquisition, revenues jumped 634.8% to $76.6M, with a cash flow loss of $11.0M, an improvement from …
Expanding its European reach, AMC Networks‘ AMC/Sundance Channel Global is buying Frankfurt-based KinoweltTV. The pay-TV channel airs classic and contemporary films and is distributed to 4.5 million subscribers throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The acquisition provides the international arm of AMC Networks with distribution across all platforms in German-speaking Europe for the first time. AMC has been actively growing its overseas presence; last year, it paid about $1B for Chellomedia which produces and distributes TV channels across such territories as the UK, Benelux, Central Europe, Spain and Latin America, and reaches about 390 million households. Founded in 2004, KinoweltTV was the first German TV station completely dedicated to high-class feature films; it now offers European and American cult movies, indies, arthouse fare, classics and monthly retrospectives. The channel’s existing management will join the AMC/Sundance Channel Global team which is led by Bruce Tuchman. Achim Apell will continue as KinoweltTV’s Managing Director. Financial terms of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, were not disclosed.
CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
AMC has promoted Ben Davis to SVP of scripted programming. He will continue to report to Susie Fitzgerald, SVP of scripted development and current programming. Davis is an AMC veteran, having joined the network in 2005, just as it was transforming itself into an original programming player. He was part of the team behind AMC’s first original program, hit miniseries Broken Trail, as well as the pilots for Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Rubicon. He has served as the day-to-day creative executive in charge of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (first three seasons) and The Killing and has overseen all seasons of hit The Walking Dead, including the upcoming fifth.
AMC‘s new 10-episode drama series Halt And Catch Fire will debut on Sunday June 1 at 10 PM. Starring Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé and Toby Huss, Halt And Catch Fire captures the rise of the PC era in the early 1980s, during which an unlikely trio – a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy – take personal and professional risks in the race to build a computer that will change the world as they know it. Series is created by Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers and executive produced by showrunner Jonathan Lisco and Gran Via Production’s Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein. In addition, Halt And Catch Fire will make its world debut this Saturday, March 8 during the Film portion of the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. An early screening of the pilot, held at the AMC Theater at Violet Crown Cinemas, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Lisco, Cantwell, Rogers and select cast.
Looks like CEO Josh Sapan‘s comments to analysts addressed whatever concerns investors had about AMC Networks’ mixed Q4 earnings report this morning. The company’s stock price opened slightly down but quickly, and steadily, appreciated throughout the morning: It closed +6% at $73.75 after touching $74.22, passing the previous all-time high, on November 6, of $73.39. AMC Networks‘ Q4 report startled some company watchers with its $52M charge for losses tied to the cancellation of Low Winter Sun and The Killing. The charge “was obviously worse than what we modeled and could include more than just these two shows,” MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says. There was also some concern that it might indicate problems that could affect AMC’s upcoming series Turn and Halt & Catch Fire. Sapan wouldn’t give analysts specific metrics for assessing the performances of these shows and, in November, the Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul. While “they’re all well-done shows,” the CEO said, “they’re all reasonably pretty expensive….There is no big bargain among them.” Investors apparently decided to give AMC the benefit of the doubt. “The optimistic case says they cleaned house, got all the bad news out of the way,” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger observed. “There can’t be much risk left on the balance sheet after wiping out ~5% of the inventory.”
UPDATE: AMC Networks Reports Mixed Q4 Results Helped By ‘Walking Dead’ But Hurt By Write-Off For Cancelled ‘Low Winter Sun’ & ‘The Killing’
UPDATE, 5:48 AM: Cancelled series Low Winter Sun and The Killing were responsible for the writedown, CEO Josh Sapan told analysts in a conference call. “We were not happy with the performance of Low Winter Sun,” he says.
PREVIOUS, 4:25 AM: It will be interesting to see whether investors consider the pay TV networks company’s Q4 results a glass half full, or empty. It reported net income of nearly $35M, +130.2% vs the last three months of 2012, on revenues of $435.2M, +18.7%. The top line comfortably beat the $418.9M that analysts expected. But earnings at 49 cents a share missed forecasts for 77 cents. The results include a $52M charge “related to the write-off of programming assets.” (For some reason AMC Networks doesn’t identify them in this AM’s release.) The charge tarnished the otherwise apparently strong results at the main National Networks unit that includes AMC, WEtv, IFC, and SundanceTV. Helped by The Walking Dead‘s midseason finale, it reported a 19.3% increase in revenues, to $404M, with adjusted operating cash flow of $105.6M, -1%. Ad sales increased 30.9% to $205M while payments from pay TV distributors rose 9.4% to $199M. Meanwhile, the International and Other operation, which includes overseas channels and IFC Films, saw revenues rise 7% to $34.9M with cash flow losses increasing 90.9% to $8.2M — including fees from its agreement …
Sundance Channel‘s second original scripted series The Red Road debuts Stateside on February 27. In a move that dovetails with the launch of the Sundance London film and music festival, and as Sundance ups its international profile, the six-part series will premiere simultaneously on Sundance Channel on April 24 in Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and European territories including France, Iberia, Benelux, Poland and CEE. AMC/Sundance Channel Global acquired the rights from eOne which is handling international for all original scripted series from AMC and Sundance under a pact signed in September. The Red Road revolves around a local cop (Martin Henderson) struggling to keep his family together while policing two clashing communities. Jason Momoa, Julianne Nicholson and Tamara Tunie also star. Writer Aaron Guzikowski and Sarah Condon are exec producing and Bridget Carpenter is executive producer/showrunner. James Gray directed the first episode.
The share price is down in pre-market trading following the disappointing Q3 earnings release which contrasts with the company’s performance last year – a quarter when it racked up legal expenses for a court fight with Dish Network which also had temporarily stopped airing AMC Networks channels. The programmer just reported net income of $58.1M, +58.6% vs the period last year, on revenues of $395.3M, +19.1%. The Street expected revenues to be a tad higher, at $396.3M. Earnings from continuing operations at 80 cents a share missed forecasts for 86 cents. At the main National Networks unit — which includes AMC, WE tv, IFC, and Sundance Channel — revenues grew 20.2% to $367.9M with cash flow +24.5% to $144.9M. The company says that ad sales were +36.3% to $146M due to strong demand for original shows such as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Meanwhile revenue from cable and satellite distribution fees was +11.4% to $221M. But the unit also shouldered higher programming and marketing expenses. At the International and Other operation — with overseas channels and IFC Films — revenues were +6.9% to $31.1M with cash flow -4.9% to a loss of $8.5M. AMC says IFC Films expenses rose in the quarter. Investors ultimately may consider the Q3 numbers to be a blip: AMC shares are +48% over the last 12 months — and when execs talk to analysts this morning they’ll likely will be peppered with questions about …
Today’s agreement to pay $1B for Liberty Global’s international networks company Chellomedia ”dramatically changes the investment thesis” for AMC Networks, BTIG’s Richard Greenfield says. Many believed that the pay TV network company was ripe for a takeover more than two years after Cablevision spun it off. It’s savoring the success of shows including The Walking Dead, Mad Men and the recently wrapped Breaking Bad and a big payoff from the resolution last year of its breach of contract complaint against Dish Network. AMC’s shares are up about 95% since it went public, and +46% over the last 12 months. But Greenfield downgraded AMC to “neutral,” noting that that even though “timing for a sale appeared ideal,” management’s time and attention now “will be shifted to a significant portfolio of global cable network assets.” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says the deal means “slower growth, more financial risk, and [AMC] becomes harder to acquire.” But others say that AMC’s long-term prospects look rosier as it expands its global reach.
AMC Networks significantly expands its footprint with the acquisition of Chellomedia, the international content division of John Malone’s Liberty Global. In May, Liberty put the business up for sale, expecting a deal valued at between $800M and $1B, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. AMC, which has actively been increasing its global presence via international programming business, AMC/Sundance Channel Global, will pay $1.035B for Chellomedia. (Scripps Networks Interactive, Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications had previously been mentioned as suitors.) Chellomedia produces and distributes TV channels across such territories as the UK, Benelux, Central Europe, Spain and Latin America and reaches about 390 million households. Included in the deal are Chello-branded channels airing genres ranging from movies to entertainment, sports, children’s, lifestyle and documentary programming. Chellomedia’s stakes in joint ventures with A+E Networks, CBS International and other partners also fall under the acquisition, although Liberty will hold onto its Dutch premium channel business. This deal will provide AMC, home to Mad Men and The Walking Dead, with further outlets for programming from AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE tv. Here’s the official release:
NEW YORK, NY, October 28, 2013 – AMC Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AMCX) announced today it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of Chellomedia, the international content division of Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTYA) for €750 million (approximately $1.035 billion USD). The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
The company had to expand the size of board to 14 to add Jonathan Miller — who was News Corp’s Chief Digital Officer from 2009-2012 and now is a partner at investment firm Advancit Capital. He’ll serve on AMC Networks‘ Audit Committee, and represent owners of the publicly held Class A shares as opposed to the Class B ones controlled by Charles and James Dolan. Before joining News Corp, Miller was a founding partner of Velocity Interactive Group and served as CEO of AOL from 2002-2006.
One knock against AMC Networks as a business is that it may be too small to hold its own when it negotiates deals with cable and satellite distributors. But CEO Josh Sapan says he isn’t worried: With hit series including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, pay TV distributors looking for opportunities to squeeze costs will find that “AMC Networks may have among the highest, if not the highest, value for penny [based] on what we put on the air,” he told investors this morning at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. Indeed, it may be worth questioning programming giants such as Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Viacom “about where scale goes and whether all scale’s good.” Sapan credits on-demand technologies and services for changing TV viewing habits — especially for dramas — in ways that favor AMC. When someone wants to catch up with a series, “instead of having to find it on Channel 11 at 11 PM, you find it on demand and have the energy, time and attention” to enjoy it. Also, since viewers can tune in when they’re ready, they’re watching television “with more concentration and attention,” he says. As a result, programmers can “pay attention to a more nuanced story.” VOD also enables networks including the ones he controls to stick with …
Pay TV distributors who believe that the decks are stacked against them in retransmission negotiations with major content producers should take a look at the 180-page media and entertainment report out today from International Strategy and Investment Group analyst Vijay Jayant. He urges investors to buy shares of AMC Networks, CBS, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, and Viacom. He’s neutral on Discovery, Disney, and Scripps Networks. The big reason: These eight companies, he says, “control 90% of total TV viewership and 60% of total film production in the U.S., which means that, for the most part, they have the power to determine how content is packaged and priced to distributors and, therefore, consumers.” That muscle will be evident over the next few years as they squeeze cable and satellite companies to pay $60B in carriage fees for their channels in 2016, up from $45B this year. These payments “are drivers for the overall sector.” Factoring in “the consumer’s inherent psychological need for entertainment (even during tough times),” Jayant predicts healthy profits for his eight companies, with annual average returns on invested capital over the next three years ranging from 40.1% for AMC to 9.9% for Time Warner.