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.

Follow us on Instagram

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.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

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.

 

Fox Joining Streaming Video Market Targeting African-Americans

Fox Television Stations Jan. 13 announced it is launching an ad-supported video service targeting African-Americans viewers called Fox Soul.

The service, which “aims to celebrate black culture and highlight the real topics that affect the everyday lives of the African-American community through frank and insightful dialogue with local and national influencers,” joins a niche market that includes AMC Networks’ Urban Movie Channel and ViacomCBS’ BET+.

Follow us on Instagram

Programming includes originals with Fox TV shows. Series include “On the 7 with Dr. Sean,” “The Mike and Donny Show,” “The Tammi Mac Late Show,” “Out Loud with Claudia Jordan,” “Fit and Fab with Elise Neal,” and “One on One with Keyshia Cole”. Fox TV shows include “Later with Leon,” “The Q,” “Dish Nation,” “The Isiah Factor: Uncensored and Street Soldiers with Lisa Evers”.

“We are proud to debut this African-American focused channel, created by and for the members of the black community,” James DuBose, head of programming for Fox Soul, said in a statement. “We intend to inform, inspire, and empower our viewers by meeting their needs for authentic conversations on topics relevant to our lives.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

 

Charter Communications to Carry Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel Streaming Services

AMC Networks Oct. 31 announced that Charter Communications will launch its full suite of subscription video-on-demand services as well as AMC Premiere, the company’s premium ad-free version of its AMC channel, to Charter’s Spectrum customers.

The launch of AMC Premiere, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel (UMC) affords Spectrum subscribers access to a wide variety of exclusive AMC Networks content, including the Emmy-Award winning “Killing Eve” (AMC Premiere), “Doc Martin” (Acorn TV), “Creepshow” (Shudder), the Emmy Award-winning “State of the Union” (Sundance Now) and Craig Ross Jr.’s “Monogamy” (UMC).

AMC Acquired UMC and Acorn TV through the majority $65 million acquisition of RLJ Entertainment in 2018 — the company formed through Robert L. Johnson’s purchase of Acorn Media and Image Entertainment in 2012.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The services will be offered on the majority of Spectrum set-top boxes in the coming months.

The launch is part of a recent broader long-term agreement between the two companies that includes continued carriage of AMC Networks’ AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv and BBC World News linear television networks as well as an extension of a previously announced co-production arrangement between the companies.

“As both of our businesses continue to evolve, we are very pleased to expand our relationship by enriching Charter’s offering with our targeted SVOD services,” Ed Carroll, AMC Networks COO, said in a statement. “Our SVOD services serve passionate audiences with the content they love. We look forward to continuing to forge a new path with Charter, giving Spectrum customers access to our shows on whatever platform they choose.”

AMC Premiere delivers fans of AMC’s original programming with commercial-free viewing, early access to content and the opportunity to binge select series, including the Emmy- and Golden Globe-Award winning “Killing Eve,” “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Terror.”

AMC Networks’ SVOD services have experienced substantial growth over the past year, with its Acorn TV service, North America’s largest and most popular streaming service for British and international television, recently surpassing the 1 million paid subscriber milestone.

The growth has been driven by demand for acclaimed series “Line of Duty,” “Agatha Raisin,” “Doc Martin,” and Lucy Lawless in “My Life is Murder.”

AMC Networks’ other SVOD services include:

  • Shudder, an essential offering for fans of horror, thriller and suspense with an unmatched library of series and films, including the premiere of its newest original series, “Creepshow,” which set records in terms of viewers, subscriber acquisition and total minutes streamed, and was just renewed for a second
  • Sundance Now offers a rich selection of original and exclusive series from engrossing true crime to heart-stopping dramas and fiercely intelligent thrillers from around the world, including “Discovery of Witches,” “Riviera” and “Killing for Love.”
  • UMC (Urban Movie Channel), the first subscription streaming service created for African American audiences, features a broad mix of original series, network TV shows, classic sitcoms, and feature films, including Daytime Emmy-nominated series “Bronx SIU,” OWN’s “Black Love,” the LisaRaye McCoy and Duane Martin-led classic UPN sitcom “All of Us,” and the recent theatrical release of Master P’s I Got the Hook Up 2.

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.”

 

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

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 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.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

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.

Viacom’s BET Getting into Streaming Video

Viacom’s BET network reportedly is getting into the over-the-top video business with a little help from Tyler Perry.

The streaming service — dubbed BET+ — will be supported content-wise and financially by Perry, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation.

No pricing has been announced.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Perry, who has a five-year production deal with Viacom, would also offer content from his branded Tyler Perry Studios, as well as from Viacom subsidiaries VH1, Comedy Central and MTV.

BET+ already has competition from AMC Network’s Urban Movie Channel, which launched in 2015 by BET founder Robert L. Johnson offering movies, TV shows and stand-up comedy to African American audiences.

After a slow start, Viacom has jumped head first into OTT video following the acquisition of ad-supported Pluto TV earlier this year. BET+ follows Noggin, the $2.99 pre-school-centric SVOD service launched in 1999.

The service follows in the footsteps of pending Disney+ and Apple TV+, among other services, and will be disclosed to viewers by Perry during the BET Awards on June 23.

Comcast Launching 7th Annual ‘Watchathon’ TV, Movie VOD Extravaganza on April 8

Comcast Cable April 2 announced the seventh annual Xfinity Watchathon Week will take place April 8-14, offering Xfinity subscribers access to thousands of free movies and shows, including more than 200 complete series.

Launched in response to rising over-the-top (and on-demand TV) competitors such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu (which Comcast co-owns), Xfinity subs customers can watch every episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” leading up to the season eight premiere on April 14th.

Other series include A&E’s “60 Days In,” Acorn TV’s “Manhunt,” Epix’s “Punk,” HBO’s “Veep,” MTV’s “The Hills,” NBC’s “This Is Us, and Showtime’s “Billions.”

In total, more than 340 million hours of on-demand programming from the last six years, and includes more than 70 networks and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as A&E, ABC, Acorn TV, Adult Swim, AMC Premiere, BET, Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Epix, Fox, Hallmark Movies Now, HBO, HGTV, History Vault,  Lifetime Movie Club, Paramount Network, Showtime, TBS, TLC, TNT, Tru, True Royalty TV, Urban Movie Channel and VH1. 

 Additionally, a selection of programming from networks and SVODs (i.e. Netflix) will be available for Internet-only customers to sample on the Xfinity Stream app and Xfinity Flex.

“Last year, our highest day of on-demand viewing happened during Xfinity Watchathon Week,” Daniel Spinosa, VP, video entertainment services, said in a statement. “As we continue to bring more of the entertainment our customers love, Watchathon Week is more exciting every year for both our customers and partners and its continued success is a testament to X1’s ability to make search and discovery of content fast and easy.”

To make navigating the massive amount of available programming, Comcast has initiated several technical features, including “auto play” functionality to automatically start the next episode of a series once the former one ends.

Activating the voice command, “Xfinity Home Watchathon,” to prep the room for a viewing session by dimming all connected lights and locking connected doors if subs have a Xfinity Home subscription and compatible devices

Saying “Watchathon” to explore a personalized curated destination highlighting content recommended just for them throughout the week

Picking up where they left off on a show or movie more quickly by saying “Continue watching Billions.”

Re-watching the memorable moments from a series by saying for example, “Show me the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm about Namaste.”

Additional features during Watchathon include:

Get in on buzzworthy shows such as Bravo’s Southern Charm, Epix’s Deep State, HBO’s Big Little Lies and Deadwood, TBS’s Search Party and from Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “The Affair,” by watching the full series before they return to TV.

Catch up on popular movies across genres such as Deadpool 2, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again on HBO; A Quiet Place and Spy Who Dumped Me on EPIX; and I Feel Pretty and The Dark Tower on Showtime.

Explore almost two dozen SVODs – no sign in required- including world class mysteries, dramas, and comedies from Britain and beyond from Acorn TV; award-winning documentaries from CuriosityStream on science, history, wildlife, adventure, travel and more; Lifetime movie favorites of all genres from Lifetime Movie Club; PlayKids’s cartoons, games, books, and activities for kids aged two to eight; Stingray Qello’s full-length concerts and music documentaries; and True Royalty’s original shows and documentaries about the British Royal Family and monarchies around the world.

RLJ Entertainment Posts $5 Million Q4 Operating Loss

AMC Networks subsidiary RLJ Entertainment posted a fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating loss of $5 million on revenue of $28 million. The home entertainment unit generated net income of $3.8 million on revenue of $32.7 million during the previous-year period as a separate publicly traded company.

Subscribe HERE to our FREE daily newsletter!

AMC acquired controlling interest in RLJE from BET founder Robert L. Johnson last October for $59 million – largely for its Acorn TV SVOD service and majority stake in Agatha Christie Limited. AMC reported adjusted operating income $3 million for Agatha Christie Limited during the quarter.

Indeed, Amazon Prime Video and BBC One in the United Kingdom adapted Agatha Christie’s “The ABC Murders” into an eponymous mini-series  currently streaming and starring John Malkovich as detective Hercule Poirot.

AMC said its “international and other” business segment — which includes RLJE – increased fourth quarter revenue 48.6% to $188 million, while upping operating loss $29 million to $48 million. Adjusted operating income increased 43.9% to $9 million, all compared to the prior-year period.

“The strength of our balance sheet allows us to continue to pursue smart and strategic investments that are changing our business, including our acquisition last year of RLJ Entertainment, which is meaningfully advancing our direct-to-consumer interests, a key priority as we continue to diversify our revenue and grow our business,” Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AMC, which airs three of the top six dramas on ad-supported cable – “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” and “Better Call Saul” – reported Q4 net income of $71.8 million on revenue of $773 million. That compared to income of $145.5 million on revenue of $727 million last year.

For the fiscal year, AMC generated income of $446 million on revenue of nearly $3 billion, which compared to income of $471 million and revenue of $2.8 billion in 2017.

RLJ Entertainment Posts Q2 Loss, Reports Continued Growth in Digital

RLJ Entertainment reported a net loss of $2 million in the second quarter of 2018, compared to a loss of $0.9 million in the previous-year period.

The loss was a result of higher investment in content and marketing expenses, as well as $1 million of transaction costs incurred to respond to AMC Networks’ merger proposal offset by the improvement in gross profit generated by the digital channels segment, according to the company.

AMC Networks announced it would buy a majority interest in RLJE Aug. 1.

RLJE’s revenue increased 14% to $21.5 million in the second quarter over the previous-year period, primarily driven by a $3 million increase in digital channels segment revenues.

Digital channels, which includes over-the-top services Acorn TV (British TV) and The Urban Movie Channel, grew paying subscribers 49.1% from the second quarter of 2017 to more than 820,000. Digital channels segment revenues increased 46% to $9.4 million from $6.4 million in second quarter of 2017.

Gross profit increased 15.3% to $11.2 million and gross margin increased approximately 60 basis points to 52.3% in the second quarter of 2018 from the previous-year period. Continued growth in the digital channels segment, which represents a larger portion of total revenues, drove the improvements in gross profit and gross margin, according to the company. Adjusted EBITDA increased to $4.5 million from $3.9 million in the second quarter of 2017 primarily due to the growth of higher-margin digital channels segment revenues.

Equity earnings from Agatha Christie Limited increased 48.2% year-over-year to $1.3 million driven by the segment’s film and publishing business segments. RLJE owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited.

“The OTT landscape continues to represent a tremendous growth future as viewership increases and new platforms emerge,” said Robert L. Johnson, chairman of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement. “With our differentiated targeted brands, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, that fulfill consumers’ demands and preferences, we continue to expand our position, delivering a strong value proposition to subscribers.”

“Subscriber growth was strong in second quarter 2018, gaining momentum as our increased investments in unique and original content, broader distribution across multiple recognized platforms and heightened consumer awareness continue to pay off,” said Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement. “Digital channel subscribers grew past the 820,000 mark, our wholesale business remains a strong, increasingly profitable contributor, and Agatha Christie Limited’s performance yields both highly demanded content and strong dividends in our IP segment.”

“RLJ Entertainment’s revenue gains and profitability expansion continued in the quarter as we execute consistently on increasing our strategic investments in growth and controlling costs carefully,” said Mark Nunis, principal financial and accounting officer of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement.

RLJE’s Johnson Tells Entertainment Industry to Embrace Technology and Consumer Choice

Fresh off the news of AMC Networks buying a majority interest in his company RLJ Entertainment, BET founder Bob Johnson exhorted the audience at an Aug. 2 OTT conference to embrace change.

“You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the freedom of individual choice,” he said at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Entertainment companies must anticipate the future and learn their core business, which is producing and delivering good content.

“If you don’t produce compelling content — make consumers want to vote with their dollars — you’re going to lose out,” he said, adding “the consumer is the programmer.”

It’s about knowing what business you are in.

“Had the railroad guys been smart, they’d have been in the passenger business and started the airlines,” he said.

OTT channels such as RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel and Acorn TV are capitalizing on consumer targeting.

UMC offers “compelling content for an audience who had never had that opportunity.” It is not beholden to advertisers or cable programmers that might object to certain content.

“The gatekeepers have been torn down,” he said.

Acorn TV is for people “who love and just adore” British content. Owning 65% of the Agatha Christie library gives the channel a leg up in that market.

The future of the cable industry is threatened unless it adapts.

“Cable always from the beginning was a retransmission device of other people’s content,” Johnson said, adding “as long as cable can provide internet service it’s got a role to play.”

But he said the future of content distribution is a la carte, not bundles that include channels consumers don’t want to pay for.

“The industry in my opinion has to find a new model and that model is a la carte,” he said.