Lee Pace Joe Macmillan Halt And Catch Fire

Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan in Halt and Catch Fire. Credit: James Minchin III/AMC.

Shares of AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) rose over 3% in midday trading after the company reported better than expected third-quarter results this morning. Here's a closer look at the final totals versus Wall Street's projections:

AMC Networks
Revenue
YoY Growth
EPS
YoY Growth

Consensus estimate

$508.93 million

28.7%

$0.72

(10%)

Q3 actuals

$519.55 milion

31.4%

$0.74

(7.5%)

Difference

+$10.62 million

+2.7%

+$0.02

+2.5%

Sources: S&P Capital IQ, AMC Networks press release.

"We are particularly pleased that for the broadcast season, which ended in the third quarter, AMC Networks in aggregate was the only cable media group to have experienced double-digit growth in viewership among key demos adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Our year over year growth is significant and speaks to the success of our core content investment strategy," CEO Josh Sapan said in a press release.

What went right: Distribution revenue increased 10.5% at the company's signature national networks division, mostly due to rising affiliate and licensing fees. That's good news; it means AMC can command a premium for its programming, and that licensees, such as Netflix, remain interested in syndication deals. International operations were also a source of strength, enjoying an over 700% increase in revenue while producing excess cash flow. AMC expanded its access to more than 130 foreign markets with last year's $1 billion acquisition of Chellomedia.

What went wrong: Ad revenue fell 5.3% due to the "timing of the airing of original programming" on AMC. What that refers to specifically isn't clear, though the period drama Halt and Catch Fire -- which ran half its season during the quarter -- had trouble drawing viewers despite excellent reviews from critics. WE tv, IFC, and SundanceTV all enjoyed advertising gains, the network said. But since AMC programming is the key driver of profits, national networks' operating income fell 17.3% to $115 million.

What's next: AMC had not issued fourth-quarter or full-year guidance at the time of writing. According to S&P Capital IQ, analysts are looking for $1.07 a share in quarterly non-generally accepted accounting principles earnings on $600.14 million in revenue. For the full year, Wall Street is targeting $3.71 a share and $2,158.62 million, respectively.

Winter should also bring AMC closer to one of its most anticipated catalysts when the companion series to The Walking Dead begins shooting. The network greenlit a pilot in September.

Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple, Google (A and C class), and Netflix at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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