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’ SVOD Services Top 6 Million Subs; Fiscal Loss Increases

AMC Networks’ foray into subscription streaming continues to grow, as do expenses. The media company behind “The Walking Dead” and owner of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment, Feb. 26 disclosed that its SVOD businesses topped 6 million combined subscribers through the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2020. That represents a growth of 157% from 3.8 million subs at the end of 2019.

AMC’s SVOD businesses include AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, Acorn TV and ALLBLK (formerly Urban Movie Channel) — the latter two acquired following AMC’s $65 million purchase of RLJ Entertainment in 2018. In the quarter, AMC launched the AMC+ bundled streaming offering with Comcast, Dish Network and Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV platforms, as well as on Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels and Roku’s distribution platforms.

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“Streaming is now the most significant growth area of our company,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AMC’s “International and Other” segment, which includes RLJ Entertainment, saw Q4 revenue increase 7.5% to $216 million, from $201 million in the previous-year period. Operating loss narrowed to $77 million from $118 million.

For the fiscal year, revenue increased 1.7% to $747 million, from $734.5 million. The operating loss increased 31.9% to $224 million, from a loss of $169.8 million.

Horror Title ‘The Beach House’ Bows on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 15

The horror film The Beach House will come out on VOD, digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 15 from AMC’s RLJE Films and Shudder.

The directorial feature debut of Jeffrey A. Brown, who also wrote the screenplay, the film stars Liana Liberato (“Light as a Feather”), Noah Le Gros (A Score to Settle), Maryann Nagel and Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead, “13 Reasons Why”).

In the film, hoping to reignite their relationship, college students Emily (Liberato) and Randall (Le Gros) arrive at their weekend getaway only to discover a peculiar older couple already staying there. They all agree to share the home but, after an indulgent night of partying, they’re awoken to a living nightmare of apocalyptic proportions. A mysterious airborne microbe has infected the water and it’s making its way to the house.

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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.

 

Sci-fi Thriller ‘2067’ Coming to Disc Nov. 17 From RLJE Films

The sci-fi thriller 2067 will come out on DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 17 from RLJE Films.

The film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse, Let Me In) and Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood,” “Sacred Lies”).

In the film, by the year 2067 Earth has been ravaged by climate change and humanity is forced to live on artificial oxygen. An illness caused by the synthetic O2 is killing the worlds’ population and the only hope for a cure comes in the form of a message from the future: “Send Ethan Whyte.” Ethan, an underground tunnel worker, is suddenly thrust into a terrifying new world full of unknown danger as he must fight to save the human race.

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Bonus features includes director commentary and a behind-the-scenes featurette, including an in-depth look at the story, cast, director, the look of the film, costumes and makeup, the time machine, editing and VFX, and music.

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.

Ex-RLJ Entertainment CEO Adds AMC+ to SVOD Duties

Miguel Penella

AMC Networks Sept. 24 announced that Miguel Penella, president of SVOD, is adding AMC+ to his portfolio of over-the-top video services, which includes Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC. Penella joined AMC Networks following its 2018 acquisition of RLJ Entertainment, where he served as CEO.

Shudder recently became the second of AMC Networks’ SVOD services to surpass the 1 million subscriber milestone, following Acorn TV, which reached that mark last September.

“Miguel is a seasoned executive with an extensive track record building successful SVOD products and brands and under his leadership our targeted SVOD services have had tremendous growth,” Ed Carroll, COO of AMC Networks, said in a statement. “We look forward to Miguel bringing his vision and deep expertise to AMC+ as we accelerate our ability to serve fans of our shows by embracing the new ways they are consuming our content.”

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AMC+ is a $6.99 monthly service that brings together content from AMC Networks’ suite of premium brands. It includes original series from AMC and sister networks, ad-free with early premieres on demand, along with AMC Networks’ subscription video-on-demand services Shudder, Sundance Now, and IFC Films Unlimited, and also includes a premium linear network. AMC+ is currently offered to Comcast Xfinity and Xfinity Flex customers as well as to Dish Network and Sling TV customers.

AMC+ includes:

  • AMC — offers current seasons of hit series from AMC and its sister networks like IFC and SundanceTV anytime, ad-free, including “The Walking Dead” and “NOS4A2,” plus extras including bonus footage, sneak peeks of future episodes and exclusive behind-the-scenes features.
  • Shudder — with more than 1 million subscribers, Shudder offers fans of horror and suspense the largest uncut selection of series and films, including original hit series “Creepshow” and acclaimed documentary Horror Noire.
  • Sundance Now — offers a rich selection of original and exclusive series from true crime to heart-stopping dramas and thrillers from around the world, including “A Discovery of Witches,” “Riviera” and “Killing for Love.”
  • IFC Films Unlimited — offers a broad collection of theatrically-released and award-winning titles from IFC Films, the leader in quality talent-driven independent film.
  • Linear Network — includes an ad-free linear channel with some of the best programming AMC has to offer.

 

SVOD services also include:

  • Acorn TV – Acorn is North America’s largest streaming service specializing in British and international television with over 1 million paid subscribers in the U.S and Canada and subscribers worldwide in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America.
  • UMC — the first subscription streaming service created for black audiences, it features a broad mix of original series, network TV shows, classic sitcoms and feature films.

AMC Networks Shudder Horror Streaming Service Tops 1 Million Subscribers

Shudder, AMC Networks’ subscription streaming video service for horror, thriller and supernatural content, has topped 1 million subscribers since launching in North America in 2016. Together with Acorn TV, which surpassed 1 million subs last September, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel (UMC), AMC Networks’ SVOD services are expected to reach between 3.5 million to 4 million subscribers by the end of the year.

Shudder saw a surge in usage and new memberships last September  with the debut of original series “Creepshow” and continued throughout 2020 with its second original series, “Cursed Films,” featuring original films such as The Room, Z, The Beach House and Host, among others.

“Our focus on quality programming, innovative content and finding the best up-and-coming creators has enabled ‘Shudder’ to break out in the crowded world of subscription services,” Miguel Penella, president of AMC Networks SVOD, said in a statement.

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According to Rotten Tomatoes, three of the top four horror films released in 2020 are Shudder films, including the No. 1 movie of the year, the Zoom-based quarantine horror film Host, which was written and shot in just 12 weeks during quarantine.

“Creepshow” broke all of the streamer’s viewership records when it debuted in 2019, and finished as the top-reviewed new horror series across all networks and streamers that year. The series is currently in production on season 2. Meanwhile, Shudder’s hosted movie show, “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs,” continues to be a social media phenomenon, with new episodes typically trending No. 1 on Twitter on the night they debut, according to Shudder.

In August, the platform debuted in Australia and New Zealand, further expanding its international reach that includes the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K. and Ireland. In the U.S., Shudder has recently launched on Roku Channels, Charter/Spectrum, Dish and Sling TV. Shudder is also available through its own apps on Web, mobile, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Xbox, as well as through Apple TV Channels in the U.S. and Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Canada and U.K.

‘The Owners’ Due on Disc Oct. 20

The thriller The Owners will come out Oct. 20 on DVD and Blu-ray from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films.

The film stars  Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones,” The New Mutants), Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit, “Doctor Who”),  Jake Curran (Spotless,” Stardust), Ian Kenny (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Sing Street), Andrew Ellis (Teen Spirit, “This Is England”) and Rita Tushingham (“The Pale Horse,” Vera). The film is directed by Julius Berg (“The Forest,” “Mata Hari”) who co-wrote the film with  Matthieu Gompel (The Dream Kids).

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In The Owners, a group of friends think they found the perfect easy score — an empty house with a safe full of cash. But when the elderly couple that lives there comes home early the tables are suddenly turned. As a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues the would-be thieves are left to fight to save themselves from a nightmare they could never have imagined.

Bonus features include a making-of featurette.

IMDb TV Gets ‘The Walking Dead Universe Experience’

AMC Networks’ record-breaking zombie series “The Walking Dead” has been given expanded pay-TV life via an 11th season (30 episodes) split over two years through 2022. And monetization of past episodes and the brand via third-party over-the-top video distribution is becoming its own expanding ecosystem.

AMC Sept. 11 announced a deal with Amazon-owned IMDb TV, the ad-supported “Free Television” video-on-demand platform, for “The Walking Dead Universe Experience,” among six content channels joining the platform. The “Experience” will offer IMDb TV viewers exclusive access to select “Walking Dead” episodes, in addition to related series such as “Fear the Walking Dead” and “Ride With Norman Reedus,” and bonus material, cast interviews and related digital content.

IMDb TV is also getting AMC: Presents (movies and TV shows), Absolute Reality by WE tv, Rush by AMC (thrillers, action, and horror content), IFC Films Picks, and Slightly Off by IFC. The addition of AMC Networks bring to 20, the number of separate content channels available “live” (not VOD) via IMDb TV.

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“This comprehensive, tailored content solution for IMDb makes the great shows and franchises AMC Networks is known for available to even more fans and viewers and expands our programming footprint in a compelling way on an exciting and emerging platform,” Kim Kelleher, president of advertising sales and partnerships for AMC Networks, said in a statement.

The series has also given life to an expanding lucrative content ecosystem that currently includes “Talking Dead”; spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead,” returning for its sixth season on Oct. 11; “The Walking Dead: World Beyond,” a new series about the first generation raised in the apocalypse, debuting Oct. 4; a feature film being produced by Universal Pictures, Skybound and AMC, focused on the Rick Grimes character played by Andrew Lincoln; a new spinoff planned for 2023 focused on the popular Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) characters; and the new “Tales of the Walking Dead” episodic anthology series.

“The Walking Dead” premiered on Halloween night in 2010 as the No. 1 cable series launch of all time, later surpassed by other AMC series “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul” and “Into the Badlands,” and is the most-watched series in cable history. It was also the first cable series to become the No. 1 show in all of television, including broadcast, a rank it held for five consecutive years. In its current 10th season, “The Walking Dead” remains the No. 1 series on basic cable for the 11th consecutive year. All of the top 73 cable entertainment telecasts for the past decade have been airings of “The Walking Dead.”