It is always nice when personal pleasure can coincide with personal finance and making money. In my case, I am a huge fan of the three blockbuster drama series currently on AMC channel, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead. However, I have also started to become a fan of the company behind the popular shows, AMC Networks (AMCX -5.44%), which remains a leader in cable television and has multiple avenues for growth in the future.
The first aspect to consider with any media company that engages primarily in content creation is the content itself. In this regard AMC Networks leads the basic cable television pack. With the three aforementioned drama series and a steadily expanding portfolio of unscripted shows, the small-cap company has built a rather robust portfolio of critically and commercially successful franchises over the years.
The Walking Dead is the most watched show in the history of cable television, as the first episode of its third season opened last October to a record-breaking 10.9 million viewers. This number represented an increase of 50% over the show's season two opening episode. Even more impressive is that the show's third season ended in April on an even higher note, with 12.4 million viewers tuning in to watch the season finale. This indicates that demand for The Walking Dead is the strongest it's ever been and means that the show's season four premier coming next month should be another high point for AMC channel and could even boost shares in the process.
Also impressive is how well AMC Networks compounds the success of its hit shows with the ancillary talk show format. Directly after The Walking Dead first airs, Talking Dead follows and manages to retain an impressive 25% of the drama series' 10 million plus viewers. Management at AMC employs a similar tactic with the hit show Breaking Bad and that show's supplementary follow-up Talking Bad. The repeated success of these supplementary shows indicates that management at AMC Networks has developed an efficient and successful formula to enhance its existing drama brands.
A recent concern has been what happens when the company's popular lineup of content begins to end? Well, management is in the process of figuring that out, as the company has announced seven new scripted drama series and three new unscripted series to be produced. The company's new dramatic endeavors include Ballistic City, a futuristic drama about a criminal underworld housed underneath a massive spaceship, and Ashland, a period drama set in the 1950's amid the height of the Red-Scare.
Growth through new technology
Perhaps one of the company's greatest potential drivers of growth is something that is rarely mentioned: The possibility of offering a streaming service, similar to Time Warner's (TWX) incredibly popular HBO GO service. While Discovery Communications (DISC.A) recently made news when it announced intentions to eventually allow subscribers to view select content online via a monthly access fee, I believe AMC Networks' lineup of content is much better suited for a paid streaming service. There is much more demand among viewers to try to get caught up with the popular drama series that everybody seems to be watching at the moment. The potential is huge because it would open up an entirely new revenue stream for AMC Networks by giving them the ability to further monetize its popular shows before they fall under contract with other streaming services like those of Amazon.com, (AMZN -4.03%) and Netflix, (NFLX -1.44%). While non-traditional media companies like Amazon and Netflix are busy trying to create original content of their own, the former recently tested five new pilots and the latter has found success with its original show House of Cards, AMC Networks is well ahead of the competition with an already exhaustive content lineup that can easily be put to work and made more available via a streaming service.
The massive success of AMC Networks' content offerings has propelled the company higher in recent years, with shares up more than 80% since September of 2011. Thanks to what is shaping up to be one of the most talked about series finales in Breaking Bad, a final season of Mad Men in 2014, the likely continued success of The Walking Dead and a plethora of new scripted and unscripted series in the works, the company is projected to grow at a feverish pace, with revenue and EPS expected to grow 11.65% and 45.65%, respectively, in 2013-2014. As long as the company can remain a leader in creating popular and compelling content, the future looks very bright for AMC Networks.