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 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 Expects 4 Million SVOD Subs by Year-End

AMC Networks May 5 said it expects to generate 3.5 million to 4 million combined paid subscribers for its four SVOD services — Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) — by the end of the year, two years ahead of the company’s original target.

AMC acquired home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment in 2018 for $65 million largely for British-centric programming service Acorn TV and UMC. Notably, 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.

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Separately, AMC, whose signature original programming includes “The Walking Dead,” “Killing Eve,” and “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul,” inked a distribution deal with ViacomCBS ad-supported streaming VOD platform Pluto TV.

“We continue to make significant progress on our digital initiatives … is enabling us to navigate this challenging time and will continue to serve us well when this [coronavirus] environment stabilizes,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Indeed, as it is worldwide, the impact of COVID-19 and measures to prevent its spread significantly affected AMC Networks’ ad revenue and pay-TV business in the quarter and going forward.

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Revenue in the quarter dropped 6.4% to $735 million, while operating profit plummeted nearly 30% to $173 million compared to the previous-year period. Beginning in mid-March, the company experienced adverse advertising sales impacts and suspended content production, which has led to delays in the creation and availability of some of its television programming.

Operationally, nearly all AMC Networks employees are working remotely, and the company has restricted business travel. AMC expects current second quarter revenue to fall 30%.

“In what has been a unique operating environment, [we] continue to generate significant levels of free cash flow and remain well capitalized with a strong balance sheet and strong liquidity,” Sapan said.

AMC Networks’ RLJ Entertainment Narrows Q3 Operating Loss

RLJ Entertainment has struggled to be profitable ever since BET founder Robert L. Johnson acquired Acorn Media and Image Entertainment in 2012 to form the home entertainment distributor.

Spurred by over-the-top video successes of Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel (UMC), AMC acquired majority ownership of RLJ Entertainment in 2018 for $65 million.

AMC Oct. 31 reported RLJE posted third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) net revenue, operating loss and adjusted operating income of $31 million, $1 million and $3 million, respectively.

Robert L. Johnson

For the nine months of the fiscal year, RLJE recorded net revenue, operating loss and AOI of $79 million, $6 million and $5 million, respectively.

RLJE operates under AMC’s “International and Other” segment, which includes AMC Networks International, the company’s international programming businesses; Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC; Levity Entertainment Group, the company’s production services and comedy venues business; and IFC Films, the company’s independent film distribution business.

“We are optimizing the value and reach of our content in a variety of ways and executing on a plan that will enable us to thrive in a very dynamic and competitive environment,” Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Indeed, Acorn TV recently surpassed 1 million subscribers in North America.

International and Other revenue for the third quarter increased 20.5% to $183 million, operating loss decreased $5 million to a loss of $12 million, and adjusted operating income (AOI) increased $6 million to $13 million, all compared to the prior year period.

International and Other revenue for the nine months increased 30.2% to $533 million, operating loss increased $8 million to a loss of $53 million, and adjusted operating income increased $24 million to $35 million, all compared to the prior year period.

Third quarter revenue primarily reflected $31 million related to the acquisition of RLJE.

Third quarter operating loss and adjusted operating income reflected the increase in revenue as well as an increase in operating expenses. The increase in operating expenses were primarily attributable to the acquisition of RLJE.

As previously disclosed, in connection with the acquisition of RLJE, the AMC acquired RLJE’s 64% interest in Agatha Christie Limited (“ACL”), which manages the intellectual property and publishing rights based on the late author’s works.

As a result of the RLJE acquisition, AMC modified its definition of AOI to include majority owned equity investments. For the third quarter, the company recorded adjusted operating income of $1 million related to ACL. For the nine months of the fiscal year, AMC recorded adjusted operating income of $4 million related to ACL.

 

UMC Releasing ‘Master P’s I Got the Hook-Up 2’ on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Sept. 3

AMC Networks’ UMC (Urban Movie Channel) will release Master P’s I Got the Hook-Up 2 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Sept. 3.

The film is the sequel to the popular 90’s classic. Executive produced by Master P (Percy Miller) and his son, Romeo Miller, the DVD will be available for an SRP of $27.97 and the Blu-ray for an SRP of $28.97. The DVD and Blu-ray also feature deleted scenes and bloopers.

I Got the Hook-Up 2 was written by Michael Ballard (“Chi-Raq the Series”), Ramello Barnes (Note to Self), Corey Grant (Dysfunctional Friends), and Master P, who also stars in the film along with Romeo, D.C. Young Fly (“Wild ‘N Out”), Anthony Johnson (Friday), Clifton Powell (Ray), Jess Hilarious (“Rel”) and Sheryl Underwood (“The Talk”).

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In the original 1998 film, Master P and Johnson star as Black and Blue, two small-time scam artists who sell boom boxes and broken TVs from their van. When a shipment of cellular phones gets to them by mistake, it doesn’t take long before the FBI and crime bosses are after them.

Reprising their roles, I Got the Hook-Up 2 picks up with Black and Blue running a local restaurant.

When an incident results in their restaurant being shut down, Black needs to find some cash – fast. He gets several boxes of stolen phones to sell but the boxes also have a stash of Molly that belongs to the Colombian cartel. Now, he has to sell the phones and repay the cartel before time runs out.

AMC’s Acorn TV and UMC Launch on YouTube TV

Subscription streaming services Acorn TV and UMC are available on YouTube TV, AMC Networks announced.

Acorn TV is North America’s largest streaming service for British and international television, and UMC is the largest streaming service for black TV and film, according to AMC. The services join sister services Shudder, Sundance NOW and AMC Premiere as part of YouTube TV’s lineup of premium streaming service add-on options.

Acorn TV’s add-on channel is now available via YouTube TV for $6 a month, and UMC’s add-on channel is $5 a month.

Programming now available on Acorn TV’s YouTube TV channel includes:

  • “Manhunt,” a 2019 series starring Martin Clunes as a former police detective who tenaciously pursues a serial killer;
  • “Line of Duty,” a cop thriller that takes a probing look into modern police corruption with new guest leads every season;
  • “Agatha Raisin,” an Acorn TV Original series starring Ashley Jensen in adaptations of MC Beaton’s best-selling novels as an amateur sleuth who becomes entangled in mischief, mayhem and murder;
  • “Doc Martin,” a U.K. series starring Clunes as a tactless, self-centered, and uptight doctor in the town of Portwenn, where he clashes with the village’s quirky inhabitants;
  • “Keeping Faith,” an Acorn TV Original thriller starring Eve Myles as Faith, a lawyer with a happy marriage until her husband suddenly disappears; and
  • dramas including “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and “Midsomer Murders,” as well as Acorn TV Original series “Queens of Mystery” and “Mystery Road.”

 

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Programming now available on UMC’s YouTube TV channel includes:

  • “A House Divided,” a new original drama series starring Demetria McKinney, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Paula Jai Parker and Brad James;
  • “Beyond the Pole,” the channel’s first original reality series that follows six of Atlanta’s exotic dancers on their journeys out of the strip club world with the help of Stormy Wellington, a former dancer turned multi-millionaire;
  • “Craig Ross Jr.’s Monogamy,” which will return for its second season later this fall;
  • OWN’s “Black Love” and WEtv’s “Growing Up Hip Hop”;
  • classic sitcoms, such as UPN’s “All of Us”; and
  • classic films such as Set It Off, starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox and Kimberly Elise, and B.A.P.S., starring Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle.

Over the past year, Acorn TV and UMC have expanded their availability across various platform partners, most recently joining Apple TV Channels and The Roku Channel. Others will be added later this year, according to AMC.

AMC Networks Completes Acquisition of RLJ Entertainment

AMC Networks Nov. 1 announced it completed the acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment, after the latter’s stockholders approved the transaction at a special meeting on Oct. 31.

AMC Networks acquired all of the shares of common stock of RLJE not owned by founder and namesake Robert L. Johnson, for about $59 million in cash.  RLJ Entertainment is now a privately-owned subsidiary of AMC Networks, with Johnson and his affiliates owning a stake of 17%.

RLJE operates two subscription streaming services with about 1 million combined subscribers: Acorn TV, known for its British and international mysteries and dramas; and UMC, which offers films, documentaries, original series and comedy for African-American and urban audiences.

The growth of Acorn TV has been driven by the current release of “A Place to Call Home.” Other pending original programs include, “Agatha Raisin,” “Queens of Mystery” and “London Kills.” UMC original series include “Monogamy” and “5th Ward.”  Recent releases from RLJE Films include MandyArizona and Galveston.

“Our businesses each serve unique audiences and have a strong connection to their viewers,” Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, said in a statement. “”AMC Networks has been an ideal partner as we developed Acorn TV and UMC for their respective audiences.”

In addition, RLJE owns a majority stake in Agatha Christie Ltd., a popular IP franchise. Last year’s 20st Century Fox Kenneth Branagh-directed adaptation of Murder on the Orient Expressgrossed more than $350 million in worldwide box office. It sold more than $9 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units from 20thCentury Fox Home Entertainment.

Forthcoming adaptations include Fox’s Death on the Nilesequel as well as the BBC’s recent multi-show deal with Agatha Christie Productions for seven dramas based on the author’s works.

“This acquisition furthers AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer strategy and accelerates our interests in subscription video-on-demand services that we own and control,” said Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks.

RLJ Entertainment Ups Q1 Loss

Independent distributor RLJ Entertainment May 10 reported a first-quarter net loss of $6.5 million, compared with a net loss of $6.1 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 34% to $18.5 million, from $13.8 million a year ago.

RLJE, which includes Image Entertainment, Agatha Christie Ltd., RLJ Entertainment Ltd., and Acorn Productions Ltd., attributed the higher loss to non-cash warrant expense driven by the appreciation of the company’s stock price.

RLJE said increase in revenue was primarily driven by the over-the-top video business.

The digital channels unit, which includes Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel (UMC), saw the collective subscriber base increase 44% to more than 750,000 members, from 520,000 in the previous-year period. Segment revenue increased 45% to $8.7 million from $6 million last year.

“Our increased investments in unique and original content, expanded consumer awareness and broader distribution resulted in a strong first quarter,” CEO Miguel Penella said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the wholesale distribution segment, which includes packaged media, saw revenue increase nearly 25% year-over-year – driven by digital distribution.

“Digital sales led … as we continue to transform the business from physical to digital [content],” Penella said.

Equity earnings from Agatha Christie Limited increased 42% to $800,000 — driven by film and publishing business segments. RLJE owns 64% of the company that manages Christie’s literary works, including more than 80 novels and short stories, 19 plays, and 40 TV movies, featuring characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marble.

In 2013, RLJE licensed theatrical, home entertainment rights to Murder on the Orient Express to 20th Century Fox Film Corp. Fox released a remake last December, starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh, that generated $351 million at the global box office. Fox released the title into retail channels Feb. 27.

As previously reported, CFO Nazir Rostom is leaving May 11 after two years with the company.