AMC Networks Streaming Services Ended 2021 With 9 Million Paid Subscribers

AMC Networks Feb. 16 said it ended fiscal 2021 with 9 million paid subscribers across its direct-to-consumer platforms that include Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, ALLBLK (formerly Urban Movie Channel) and AMC+. That compares with 6 million combined subs at the end of fiscal 2020.

ALLBLK and Acorn TV come from AMC’s $65 million acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment in 2018.

Last year, AMC launched branded AMC+ premium subscription bundle in Canada and Australia on Apple TV channels and Amazon Prime Video Channels. The media company also expanded key franchises with renewal of “Fear the Walking Dead” for an eighth season, commencement of production of “Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire” and greenlight of “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches.”

“2021 was a strong, pivotal year for AMC Networks,” Matt Blank, interim CEO, said in a statement. “We ended the year with … a significant [streaming subscribers] milestone driven by the strength of our brands and the depth of content within each of our offerings.”

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AMC expanded its over-the-top video platforms with the acquisition of global anime content distributor Sentai and the HIDIVE anime streaming service.

“We deepened our position as a global leader in targeted streaming,” Blank said.

AMC Networks, Comcast Reach New Multiyear Distribution Agreement — That Includes Streaming

AMC Networks and Comcast Cable Jan. 31 announced a new multiyear distribution agreement that includes continued carriage of AMC Networks’ linear networks and expanded availability of its targeted streaming services (Acorn TV, AMC+, etc.) to Xfinity TV and broadband customers. AMC+ was first launched to Xfinity customers in the summer of 2020 and has grown rapidly since.

“We are excited to continue and also expand our longstanding partnership with Comcast through a new agreement that includes not only continued carriage of our cable networks, but also our fast-growing targeted streaming services,” Josh Reader, president of distribution and development for AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Reader said 2022 would be the biggest year of original programming in AMC’s history with final seasons of “The Walking Dead” — the highest-rated series in the history of cable television — “Killing Eve” and “Better Call Saul.” The year will also feature a wide array of new series, including the courtroom drama “61st Street,” “Dark Winds,” “Tales of the Walking Dead,” “Moonhaven” and the first two series in an Anne Rice universe, “Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” and “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches.”

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AMC Networks Says SVOD Properties to Reach 9 Million Subs by Year’s End

AMC Networks Nov. 5 said expects its branded subscription streaming video services to reach 9 million combined subscribers by the end of the year. SVOD services include Acorn TV, AMC+, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK (formerly Urban Movie Channel).

The notable sub driver for AMC+ was the Aug. 22 Season 11 premiere of “The Walking Dead,” which was a top driver of subscriber acquisition and viewership on the platform, according to AMC.

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Acorn and ALLBLK come from AMC’s 2018 acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment for $65 million.

“We are building a streaming business that is sustainable and will be profitable over the long term, and with our owned IP, our library of high-quality content, and our strong legacy channels business, we have the right assets to drive growth and increase shareholder value,” CEO Matt Blank said in a statement.

AMC Networks Expands Streaming Video Management Duties

AMC Networks has expanded the roles and responsibilities of three executives as the company continues its reorientation around its targeted streaming services, which include more than 6 million subscribers across AMC+, Shudder, Acorn TV, Sundance Now and IFC Films Unlimited.

Courtney Thomasma, who has most recently been executive director of BBC America, is shifting to a new role as general manager of AMC+. She oversaw the network’s programming, including the Peabody-Award winning “Killing Eve,” starring Golden Globe Award winner Sandra Oh and Emmy Award winner Jodie Comer; “Doctor Who”; and natural history series “Seven Worlds,” “One Planet,” among others.

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Thomasma grew the network’s digital and social footprint and was also part of the leadership team responsible for launching micro-net “Wonderstruck,” a weekly 24-hour destination, as well as Wonderstruck.TV, a free digital companion site featuring short-form nature content. Thomasma, who has been with AMC Networks since 2013, reports to Miguel Penella, AMC Networks’ president of SVOD, and former CEO of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment.

Matt Graham, GM of Acorn TV since 2014, adds oversight responsibility for the Sundance Now streaming service as its GM. Graham now oversees all day-to-day operations and execution of both streaming services. He also continues to report to Penella.

Blake Callaway, who has been executive director of the IFC and SundanceTV television networks since 2011, adds oversight of BBC America as GM of all three networks, working closely with partner BBC Studios. In his new role, Callaway is charged with defining each brands’ direction, maintaining overall business performance, and identifying opportunities to support digital growth across the portfolio. He continues to report to Ed Carroll, chief operating officer of AMC Networks.

“Courtney, Matt and Blake are accomplished leaders who have all made meaningful contributions to the success of our company, particularly through their dynamic oversight of many of our most important brands and businesses,” Carroll said in a statement “We are pleased to recognize their contributions with these expanded roles, as we continue to reorient our company around our targeted streaming services and delivering our high-quality original content to viewers on an expanding array of platforms.”

 

AMC Networks Expects Upwards of 5.5 Million SVOD Subs by Year’s End

AMC Networks Nov. 2 said it expects 5 million to 5.5 million paid subscribers by the end of 2020 for its portfolio of streaming services, which include AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, UMC and IFC Films Unlimited. Shudder, which features horror/thriller based content, just topped one million subs. The company also expanded distribution of AMC+ with launches on Amazon Prime and Apple TV platforms.

“AMC Networks is fast becoming the global leader in SVOD services for targeted audiences,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Indeed, since acquiring Acorn TV and UMC as part of its $65 million acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment in 2018, AMC has sought to market SVOD services focusing on specific niches of entertainment. Acorn targets fans of British-themed TV shows; UMC offers movies and series for African Americans, while IFC and Sundance target independent films and series.

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SVOD helped AMC’s “international and other” business segment increase third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue 9% to $199 million, from $182.5 million in the previous-year period. Operating income increased $23 million to $11.2 million, from a loss of $11.5 million last year. Adjusted operating income increased $14 million to $28 million, from $13.5 million.

Overall, AMC saw total Q3 revenue decrease 9%, or $65 million, to $654 million compared with the previous-year period. The decline reflected a decrease of 17.3% at “national networks” operating segment, offset by the previously mentioned “international and other” revenue gain. Operating income topped $139 million, a decrease of 17.2%, or $29 million, versus the prior-year period. The decrease reflected a decrease of 28.8% at “national networks” and an increase of $23 million in operating income at “international and other.”

National networks includes AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV; and AMC Studios, the company’s production business.

On Oct. 21, AMC announced the final results of the tender “Dutch Auction” offer and repurchased approximately 10.8 million shares of common stock for $251 million.

 

Soumya Sriraman Steps Down as CEO of Streamer BritBox

Longtime home entertainment executive Soumya Sriraman is stepping down as president and CEO of BritBox, the British-themed subscription VOD service she helped launch in the United States in 2017 with ITV and BBC Studios. No reason was cited for her departure at the end of the month. ITV and BBC are expected to announce new management shortly.

BritBox, which competes against AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for fans of British movies and TV shows, had generated more than 1.5 million subscribers.

Soumya Sriraman

“Soumya is a trailblazer. Her experience, leadership, and thorough knowledge of British content has been the perfect fit for BritBox,” Rebecca Glashow, president of BBC Studios Americas, and Martin Goswami, group strategic partnership and distribution director for ITV, said in a joint statement. “We thank Soumya for her passion and commitment in leading the BritBox team and shaping the service into what it is today.”

Sriraman had been key to helping BritBox launch original series such as “The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco” and “There She Goes,” featuring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes, the latter winning a BAFTA Award for her role.

“I have enjoyed writing every minute of the BritBox story — from imagining it six years ago to building and growing it,” Sriraman said. “I am so proud of my team who has worked tirelessly to exceed all expectations. I am grateful to the leadership at the BBC and ITV for their stewardship on this journey and I now look forward to my next chapter.”

Prior to BritBox, Sriraman had been EVP of franchises and digital enterprises at BBC Worldwide, with a stint as CEO of Palisades Tartan Video before that.

AMC Networks Launching Acorn TV in Portugal

Acorn TV, the AMC Networks-owned SVOD service catering to British-themed content, is set to launch in Portugal on Oct. 1 and will also be available on telecoms MEO and NOS. AMC Networks International Southern Europe (AMCNISE) will support Acorn TV in Portugal, providing affiliate sales, marketing, PR and versioning services.

Bowing at 2.99 euros monthly with Portuguese subtitles, Acorn TV has more than 1 million subscribers in North America, Australia, the United Kingdom and Latin America.

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“Acorn TV has become a household name in the U.S. thanks to the excellence of its programming content, including series from major networks, such as BBC, ITV, Channel 4, ABC Australia and RTE, as well as [original] series Acorn TV commissions and co-productions,” Acorn TV GM Matthew Graham said in a statement.

Acorn TV Portugal will include British drama “Doc Martin”; Irish legal drama “Striking Out”; detective drama “Jack Taylor,” starring Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones,” “Downton Abbey”) and based on Ken Bruen’s best-sellers; and “Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime,” an adaptation of Agatha Christie, among others.

According to the Marktest Telecommunications Barometer, about 800,000 Portuguese signed up for streaming video services between February and April 2020, raising the number of SVOD subs in Portugal to 2 million.

AMC Networks Eyes Growth in ‘Targeted’ SVOD Services

AMC Networks’ majority acquisition of RLJ Entertainment continues to pay dividends as the media company expands its subscription streaming video-on-demand profile in an over-the-top ecosystem.

While the media company didn’t disclose new subscriber data, CEO Josh Sapan said SVOD  and ad-supported VOD distribution continued to drive AMC’s second-quarter (ended June 30) “International and Other” business objectives.

“We have made particular progress during this COVID-19 period with strong growth across our targeted SVOD services — Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC — as consumers increasingly subscribe to both our targeted offerings in addition to general entertainment SVOD services,” Sapan said in a statement.

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During the quarter, AMC launched new SVOD bundles AMC+ and WE tv+. The company acquired exclusive streaming rights to “Mad Men.” The company furthered its AVOD strategy with launches on ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV and Dish Networks’ Sling Free services.

Second-quarter revenue primarily reflected an increase at AMC Networks SVOD business, more than offset by a decrease at Levity Entertainment and, to a lesser extent, a decrease at the company’s international programming networks.

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Citing ongoing fiscal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, AMC reported a $112 million operating loss at the “International and Other” segment. The increased loss was primarily related to $130 million in impairment charges due to the pandemic. Segment revenue for the quarter decreased 10.3% to $161 million.

AMC Networks’ Acorn TV Greenlights Second Season of ‘Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries’

AMC Networks’ British-themed SVOD service Acorn TV July 28 announced it has commissioned the second season of “Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries,” a spinoff of the global hit “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

The 1960s-set spinoff features down-to-earth Peregrine Fisher (Logie-nominated Geraldine Hakewill) in the lead role as Phryne Fisher’s niece who inherited a windfall from her famous aunt and sets out to become a world-class private detective in her own right.

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Season one premiered on Acorn TV as four feature-length mysteries in the U.S. and Canada in April 2019. Season two will feature eight one-hour mysteries. The Acorn TV Original Series will begin production in October and premiere on Acorn TV in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and in its home country on Acorn TV Australia in 2021.

“Acorn TV viewers loved the first season, so we’re thrilled to commission even more mysteries for our subscribers around the world,” Don Klees, SVP of programming for the Acorn brands and AMC Networks SVOD, said in a statement.

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The second season will feature returning co-stars Joel Jackson (“Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door,” “Deadline Gallipoli”) as smart, ambitious cop Detective James Steed; Catherine McClements (Wentworth) as Birdie, an ex-member of WW2 Special Forces and head of The Adventuresses Club, a group of exceptional women of which Peregrine’s celebrated aunt was a member; and Birdie’s gadget-designing brother, Samuel (Toby Truslove).

BritBox Touts Agatha Christie Content as Rival Collects License Revenue

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD service operating in North America and the United Kingdom and co-owned by the BBC and ITV, has secured rights to what it says is the largest collection of Agatha Christie-themed content.

Rights include myriad seasons of “Poirot,” “Marple,” “Partners in Crime” and “Poirot: Mysterious Affair at Styles,” which bowed May 15 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Christie’s first novel.

“Only BritBox could create this Agatha Christie collection — working together with BBC and ITV to bring together all of these celebrated adaptations,” Soumya Sriraman, CEO of BritBox, said in a statement. “As the home of great British mysteries, we couldn’t be more proud to be the true home of the most beloved portrayals of Christie’s famous characters.”

BritBox is releasing Christie-themed adaptations including, “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” and “The Seven Dials Mystery,” featuring Sir John Gielgud, in addition to “The Secret Adversary.”

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“I am delighted to see all these shows available in North America on BritBox,” said James Prichard, CEO and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. (ACL). “They give a real flavor of the depth and quality of my great grandmother’s work, and I am sure audiences will enjoy them.”

Interestingly, AMC Networks, which owns and operates rival British-themed streaming service Acorn TV, is the majority (64%) stakeholder in Agatha Christie Ltd. AMC reported $6 million operating income from ACL in 2019.

Acorn TV launched in the United Kingdom in Q1 — nine years after bowing in the United States as an alternative to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The company expects to generate upwards of 4 million combined paid subscribers for its four SVOD services, which include Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) by the end of the year.