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AMC Networks Has Big Plans for Its Video-Streaming Services

By Anders Bylund - May 6, 2019 at 3:18PM

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The company produced 6% revenue growth in the first quarter.

Cable TV broadcaster and content producer AMC Networks ( AMCX -3.11% ) reported first-quarter results before the opening bell on May 1. The company is tuning the release windows for some of its most popular shows, resulting in significant revenue swings from quarter to quarter. Here's a closer look at AMC's latest report.

AMC Networks' first-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Year-Over-Year Change

Net revenue

$784 million

$741 million

5.8%

Net income attributable to shareholders

$143 million

$157 million

(8.6%)

GAAP earnings per share (diluted)

$2.48

$2.54

(2.4%)

Data source: AMC Networks. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

What happened with AMC Networks this quarter?

  • Revenue fell 2.7% year over year in the national networks division, landing at $616 million. At the same time, the international and other segment recorded 54% revenue growth for a total of $171 million.
  • Domestic advertising sales rose 5.9% while content distribution revenue fell 7.4%. AMC is moving some of its flagship series around the calendar a bit, shifting season premieres and exits forward for The Walking Dead and backward for Fear the Walking Dead. These changes will continue to trigger volatility in the company's distribution and advertising revenues over the next few quarters.
  • The international growth was largely powered by content producer buyouts. The recent additions of comedy specialist Levity Entertainment added $43 million to this quarter's top-line results and RLJ Entertainment contributed $22 million. Backing these studios out of the equation, international revenue fell 4.5% compared to the year-ago period.
  • AMC Networks has $558 million of share buyback authorizations on the table. The first quarter did not see much activity on that front, as the company repurchased a mere $1 million worth of its own stock.
Close-up shot of a hand holding a TV remote, with the TV set visible in the blurry distance.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

On the earnings call, CEO Josh Sapan outlined how AMC is growing its direct-to-consumer video-streaming services.

"To remind us all they are Acorn TV, which has British mysteries and dramas, Shudder for horror fans, Sundance Now, which has precise documentary and series, and Urban Movie Channel for Urban audiences," Sapan said. "Each of these services are growing nicely, and we continue to see increasing demand as evidenced by our recent agreement with Apple, which will be launching all of them on their new TV channels platform. Our plan in this area has always been to attract highly dedicated audiences, who strongly identify with services in very specific genres."

The first step in AMC's expansion plan here is to create appropriate content libraries for each service and introduce them in the domestic market. Next comes an international launch, once each specialized service reaches a "reasonable" size. Finally, AMC hopes to scale these services up until their growing revenues can exceed their cost base.

"We have enough scale that it makes sense for us to selectively produce or license content for them, which we're now starting to do," Sapan noted.

Looking ahead

AMC Networks generally doesn't give its analysts and investors any detailed financial forecasts from one quarter to the next. Instead, management offered the following color on the company's near-term business prospects.

Full-year revenue is expected to grow by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage, consistent with the view from three months ago. Operating income should increase by low single digits. Though none of the growth expectations have changed, management said that the strong first-quarter results gave them "more confidence" in reaching these targets.

"Given what we've seen year-to-date, we're trending modestly ahead of our expectations for domestic advertising and we've moderated our expectations for domestic subscription revenue growth slightly due to macro factors," said CFO Sean Sullivan.

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