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.

AMC Networks Says SVOD Services Top 2 Million Subs

When AMC Networks acquired a majority stake in RLJ Entertainment for $60 million, it did so primarily for the home entertainment distributor’s two SVOD services — Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel (UMC) — and control of Agatha Christie Limited intellectual property.

Smart move.

AMC Feb. 26 reported that its combined SVOD portfolio, which also includes Sundance Now and horror-based Shudder, topped two million subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019.

“We are seeing momentum for our targeted SVOD services … as we continue to invest in strong, desirable content and valuable IP, diversify through new areas of content monetization and maximize the long-term value of our core networks and brands,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

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What is AMC is also seeing are increased losses as it ups spending on SVOD.

Revenue for the “international and other” segment, which includes SVOD, increased 6.5% to $201 million, while the operating loss increased $69 million to $118 million from an operating loss of $49 million in the previous-year period.

AMC said adjusted operating income increased 75.1% to $15 million, all compared to the prior year period.

The operating loss and adjusted operating income reflected the increase in revenue as well as an increase in operating expenses. The increase in operating loss also reflected $107 million in impairment and related charges at AMC Networks International partially offset by a reduction in restructuring and other related charges.

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For the full fiscal year, “international and other” revenue increased 22.7% to $734 million, operating loss increased 82.2% to a loss of $170 million, and adjusted operating income increased $31 million to $50 million, all compared to the prior year period.

Meanwhile, Agatha Christie Limited reported adjusted operating income of $2 million. For the full year, the unit recorded adjusted operating income of $6 million.

 

Sundance Now Adds International Thrillers, Romance

AMC Networks’ streaming service Sundance Now Nov. 6 announced a distribution deal with Banijay Rights for five dramas, including “The Gulf” and Norwegian drama “Wisting.”

German-New Zealand thriller “The Gulf” centers around the moral disintegration of Detective Jess Savage, who finds herself caught between upholding the legal justice system, and morality, as she investigates crimes on her home patch of Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

German/New Zealand co-production, “The Gulf”

Crime thriller “Wisting” is based on the best-selling novels written by Jørn Lier Horst. The series stars Sven Nordin (“Lilyhammer,” “Valkyrien”) and Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix” trilogy, “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”). The 10-part production follows homicide detective William Wisting as he wrestles with the most challenging and shocking case of his career: a wanted American serial killer living in Norway.

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Sundance Now ($4.99) will stream the exclusive U.S. premieres of “The Gulf” on Dec. 4 and “Wisting” Dec. 18.

Other titles acquired by Sundance Now include Scandinavian romantic offerings “Couple Trouble” and “Idiomatic.”

“Idiomatic” follows the life and times of an urban, bilingual, environmentally conscious left-wing couple in their thirties. Meanwhile, “Couple Trouble” revolves around a couple who aren’t prepared to give up on each other so together start seeing a counsellor.

The French ratings hit, “The Red Shadows,” has also been snapped up by Sundance Now. The series tells the story of a young woman who uncovers

“These international dramas deliver exactly what [SVOD] viewers are looking for right now — strong universal themes placed in unique and intriguing settings with high-end production values and talent,” Andreas Lemos, VP of sales, North America, Banijay Rights, said in a statement.

In the past year, Sundance Now has premiered several Sundance Now Original Series, including supernatural thriller “A Discovery of Witches,” starring Matthew Goode and Theresa Palmer; thriller “Riviera,” starring Julia Stiles; British thriller “The Cry,” starring Jenna Coleman; and French crime drama “The Bureau,” as well as exclusively streamed SundanceTV’s “State of the Union,” starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd, medieval drama “The Name of the Rose” and British legal drama “The Split,” among others.

AMC Networks Upbeat on SVOD as Costs Escalate

When AMC Networks acquired home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment for $65 million in 2018, the primary attractions were the company’s over-the-top video services Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, in addition to majority ownership of the Agatha Christie IP library.

A year into ownership of RLJE, AMC remains upbeat on SVOD, which include horror-based Shudder and Sundance Now, despite increasing costs associated with supplying original content to the standalone subscription services.

AMC reported that its “International and Other” business unit, which consists of AMC Networks International; IFC Films, independent film distribution business; Levity Entertainment Group, production services and comedy venues business; and RLJ Entertainment, including SVOD, generated second-quarter (ended June 30) operating loss of $27 million, up $16 million from an operating loss of $11 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 22.4% to $180 million.

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The increase in operating expenses were primarily attributable to the acquisition of RLJE. Operating loss also reflected restructuring and other related charges of $17 million recorded in connection with the reorganization of the direct-to-consumer businesses.

Regardless, CEO Josh Sapan said AMC is seeing “very healthy rates of growth” among the SVOD services.

“As these services gain sufficient scale, we have been increasingly populating them with original content, which has been resonating with subscribers and is driving our momentum,” Sapan said in a statement. “As we continue to remain focused on creating sought-after premium content — which propels our entire enterprise — we believe direct-to-consumer, along with owning more of our intellectual property and expanding our studio, represent significant growth areas for us.”

Meanwhile, RLJE, which also distributes packaged and digital media, recorded Q2 net revenue, operating loss and adjusted operating income of $26 million, $2 million and $2 million, respectively. For the six months of the fiscal year, net revenue, operating loss and AOI reached $48 million, $5 million and $2 million, respectively.

Finally, AMC recorded adjusted operating income of $2 million related to Agatha Christie Limited, and AOI of $3 million through the first six months.

A reboot of ACL-licensed “Murder on the Orient Express” generated $9.6 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc sales for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2018. The movie, featuring an ensemble cast led by Kenneth Branagh (who also directed), generated Fox worldwide box office revenue of $346 million in 2017.

Streaming Services Sundance Now and Shudder Acquire ‘A Discovery of Witches’ Based on Best Seller

Streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder July 19 announced at San Diego Comic-Con the joint acquisition of the Sky production, “A Discovery of Witches.”

The original drama series will premiere in the United States and Canada simultaneously on both services, marking the first partnership of this kind for the two SVOD services, according to a press release. The release date has yet to be announced.

Sundance Now is AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer SVOD service featuring dramas, comedies and crime thrillers, and Shudder is a premium streaming service for thriller, suspense and horror.

SundanceTV has also acquired second window linear rights to the series.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Deborah Harkness, “A Discovery of Witches” stars Matthew Goode (“The Crown,” “Downton Abbey”), Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge), Alex Kingston (“ER,” “Doctor Who”), Valarie Pettiford (“Being Mary Jane”) and Owen Teale (“Game of Thrones”). Filmed in the United Kingdom at Wolf Studios Wales and on location in Oxford, the contemporary love story begins against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, in a world where small numbers of witches, vampires and demons live and work, hiding in plain sight. Palmer plays the brilliant historian Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch denying her heritage. The discovery of a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery — and into the path of the enigmatic vampire and geneticist, Matthew Clairmont (Goode), who hides a dark family secret.

“This captivating story is filled with intrigue, romance and magic and set in spectacular locations that underscore those very qualities,” said Jan Diedrichsen, GM, Sundance Now, in a statement.  “We are thrilled to see Deborah Harkness’ books brought to life in such an inspired way with such a charismatic cast and talented crew. The result is binge-worthy television at its best and we know that ‘A Discovery of Witches’ will appeal to both the premium drama fans at Sundance Now and the genre fans at Shudder.”

“‘A Discovery of Witches’ is a big, bold series with witches, vampires and daemons caught up in an all-too human drama that’s enthralling from the opening minute. It’s unlike anything else on TV and we’re excited to bring it to Shudder members as part of this unique partnership,” added Craig Engler, GM, Shudder, in a statement.

“We’re delighted that ‘A Discovery of Witches,’ a Sky Original production, will make its debut in the U.S. and Canada on Sundance Now and Shudder,” said Gillian Rose, SVP, U.S. sales and acquisitions, Sky Vision, in a statement. “It’s a moving, modern day love story, set in a world where a handful of witches, vampires and daemons secretly live and work alongside humans, and I’m sure it will be a huge success for them.”