What happened

In a year that featured another wave of consolidation in the television and media industry and an uptick in cord-cutting, AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) found itself on the losing end as shares of the cable network operator fell 28% in 2019, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The parent of AMC, IFC, Sundance, WeTV, and BBC America, as well as a number of niche streaming services, fell especially hard in the later months of the year as both Apple and Disney launched their own streaming services. Anticipation for AT&T's HBO Max and Comcast's Peacock services built, putting more pressure on traditional cable networks like AMC. The chart below shows the stock's trajectory for the year.

AMCX Chart

AMCX data by YCharts.

So what

AMC Networks stock surged out of the gate, tracking with the broader market recovery and on speculation that the company could find itself an acquisition target in 2019.

A cable box with cords attached

Image source: Getty Images.

Shares peaked after its fourth-quarter earnings report at the end of February as ad revenue rose even though ratings for its hit show, The Walking Dead, declined, and the company teased a Walking Dead spinoff. Revenue in the quarter increased 6.3% to $773 million, and adjusted earnings per share jumped 15% to $1.92, ahead of estimates at $1.84. 

In March, the stock fell as DirecTV Now dropped AMC's channels as well as those of Viacom and Discovery from its service, showing that AMC may get left out in the cold by the reshuffling in the industry.  

Shares traded flat through most of the spring as an earnings beat in the first-quarter report in May wasn't enough to lift the stock. Shares slipped in August despite a solid second-quarter report that included 22% earnings growth. There was no clear reason for the sell-off.

In its third-quarter report at the end of October, domestic revenue and operating income fell slightly, which may have spooked investors as it came around the same time that Apple+ and Disney+ both launched.   

Now what

In December, AMC Networks said its streaming services, which include Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, and UMC, passed 2 million subscribers, a sign that it's making progress with its over-the-top strategy. But the company is still going to be judged as a cable network for the foreseeable future.

After last year's sell-off, the stock looks like a value play, trading at a P/E of just 4.5. But with investors currently enthralled with new streaming options, it may take some time for AMC shares to recover.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.