Ex-RLJ Entertainment CEO Adds AMC+ to SVOD Duties

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.

Miguel Penella

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, 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 the 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 year-end.

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 #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 #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 franchise, “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.”

Season One of ‘Eli Roth’s History of Horror’ Coming to Disc Oct. 6 From RLJ Films

AMC Networks’ RLJE Films will release season one of the documentary-horror series “Eli Roth’s History of Horror” Oct. 6 on DVD and Blu-ray.

The series originally aired on AMC Networks in 2018 as part of the AMC Visionaries series.

The documentary is directed by award-winning horror filmmaker Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, The Green Inferno) and written by Kurt Sayenga (“Breakthrough,” “Origins: The Journey of Humankind”). Roth brings together the masters of horror — the storytellers and stars who define the genre — to explore its biggest themes and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present. Each one-hour episode takes viewers on an exploration of how horror has evolved through the years and examines the genre’s impact on society as well as delving into how horror maintains its fan base and why audiences are addicted to fear.

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The series features interviews with author Stephen King (“Creepshow,” The Shining), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, “Kill Bill” franchise), Greg Nicotero (“The Walking Dead,” “Watchmen”), Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses), Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Elijah Wood (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and David Arquette (“Scream” franchise).

Bonus features include five featurettes and extended interviews with Stephen King, Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Diablo Cody, Roger Corman, John Landis and Joe Dante.

‘The Pale Door’ Opening on Disc Oct. 6

The horror-Western The Pale Door will come out Oct. 6 on Blu-ray and DVD from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films and Shudder, AMC’s online service for horror, thriller and supernatural tales.

Directed by Aaron B. Koontz (Scare Package) who also co-wrote the script with Cameron Burns (Camera Obscura) and Keith Lansdale (“Creepshow”), The Pale Door stars Devin Druid (“13 Reasons Why”), Zachary Knighton (“Happy Endings”), Noah Segan (Knives Out), Stan Shaw (The Monster Squad), Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills), Bill Sage (We Are What We Are), Melora Walters (“PEN15”, Magnolia) and Natasha Bassett (Hail, Caesar!).

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In The Pale Door, the Dalton gang find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square. But the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws — and the battle between good and evil is just beginning.

Vizio Appoints Former AMC Networks, Dish Exec VP of Network Partnerships

Consumer electronics company Vizio has appointed former AMC Networks and Dish executive Adam Gaynor VP of network partnerships.

In this role, Gaynor will help build direct relationships with networks across Vizio’s SmartCast platform and its advertiser-direct business unit Vizio Ads.

“Adam’s addition to the team represents Vizio’s continued focus and investment in driving the future of TV,” Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer at Vizio, said in a statement. “Not only does Adam have extensive experience working with networks, but he has been at the forefront of championing addressable advertising, going back to his previous efforts driving live linear addressable advertising at AMC Networks and Dish.”

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In addition to spearheading network relationships, Gaynor will be heavily involved in advancing Project Open Addressable Ready (Project OAR), a technology consortium led by Vizio and created to advance the development and deployment of a new, open standard for addressable advertising on connected TVs. The consortium recently announced live market trials with network partners such as Fox, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, E.W. Scripps and AMC Networks.

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“Vizio is building the next generation of home entertainment, powered by data and personalized consumer experiences,” Gaynor said in a statement. “I’m excited to join the team to advance VIZIO’s initiatives on the network and addressable front, enabling advertisers to deliver more precise messages to their intended audiences at the right time.”

Before joining Vizio, Gaynor was most recently VP of AMCN Agility, the data solutions sales team for AMC Networks. There, he created and oversaw the development and monetization of all advanced and data-driven TV advertising opportunities across the AMC Networks portfolio. He also served as VP, media sales and analytics for Dish Network, where he led the company’s media sales division, inclusive of all addressable, interactive, programmatic and OTT initiatives. Gaynor also held posts at Game Show Network, Comcast and CBS.

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).

Sling TV, Dish Add AMC Plus Streaming Service

AMC Networks July 20 announced an agreement with Dish Network that will make its AMC Plus SVOD service available on Dish’s online TV platform Sling TV.

Launched in June, AMC Plus ($6.99 monthly) affords subscribers access to all AMC Networks programming, including “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul,” among others.

The Sling deal is the second carriage agreement following AMC Plus’ initial availability on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity and broadband-only Flex platforms. Sling introduced the online TV market in 2015.

AMC Plus bundle also includes series from AMC, IFC and Sundance TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, IFC Films Unlimited, which offers a collection of theatrically released titles from IFC Films, among other sources.

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“This new bundle, available for the first time to Dish and Sling TV customers, was designed to offer fans of our programming greater choice and an enhanced customer experience, as we work with Dish and Sling TV to embrace the new ways in which viewers consume content today,” Josh Reader, president of distribution and development at AMC Networks, said in a statement.

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