Wall Street has high expectations for AMC Networks as it prepares to begin its new life Friday as an independent, publicly traded company. Most, and possibly all, of the analysts following the owner of AMC, IFC, WeTV and Sundance have a “buy” rating on the stock, which Cablevision Systems is spinning off and will trade on NASDAQ under the symbol “AMCX.”
The company’s going public as its biggest channel, AMC, enjoys a hot streak. Mad Men is bidding to become the first series since NBC’s The West Wing to win the Emmy for Best Drama Series for four straight years. If The Walking Dead and The Killing also are nominated, then AMC could become the first cable network to have three candidates in that category. Another AMC hit, Breaking Bad, isn’t eligible this year.
Maxim Group’s John Tinker says that AMC has “done an exceptional” job of commissioning original series as he projects that AMCX will hit $34 in 12 months. He’s concerned, though, that AMC won’t enjoy most of the financial rewards from its hits. For example, Mad Men producer Lionsgate owns the show’s syndication rights. Tinker also fears that AMC’s collection of older movies compete too directly with Netflix. Cable cord cutting “is here to stay,” he says.
BTIG’s Rich Greenfield expects AMCX to hit $50 saying that AMC’s hits will enable the channel to “drive notably higher advertising sales over the course of the next couple of years.” He also goes out on a limb to predict that the company is “likely to be acquired in 2013” with potential bids coming from NBCUniversal, CBS, Time Warner and financial buyers.
Miller Tabak & Co. analyst David Joyce also sees AMCX as a takeover target, although that doesn’t factor into his forecast that its shares will hit $44 in a year. He says that AMC’s recent hits will enable CEO Josh Sapan to demand higher license fees from cable and satellite companies. Also, the company should be able persuade operators to offer its smaller channels to additional homes.
AMC Networks will have two classes of stock that enable the family of Cablevision’s Charles Dolan to control 71% of the shareholder votes. Its interests will be represented on the board by Charles Dolan, Jim Dolan, Kristin Dolan, Patrick Dolan, Tom Dolan, Brian Sweeney, Marianne Dolan Weber, and Bill Bell. Other investors will be represented by Guggenheim Partners executive chairman Allan Schwartz, New Century Holdings CEO Leonard Tow, former NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright, and former CBS Interactive chief Neil Ashe.