Start now with any jokes about the The Walking Dead meeting Dr. Who. This deal, which has been in the wind for months, is now official. AMC Networks paid $200 million and will receive 49.9% of the equity in BBC America and have operational control including affiliate and advertising sales. AMC says it will “run it consistent with BBC’s editorial standards and policies” and will include financials in its quarterly results. BBC America will continue to be managed as a stand-alone channel.
The companies say that they will jointly go after “a number of content investment opportunities.” In addition, AMC will handle U.S. distribution and advertising sales for BBC World News, which is available in more than 30 million homes. BBC Worldwide North America will still be a wholly-owned regional business focused on program and format sales and co-production relationships, scripted and unscripted production, consumer products, digital and live events.
“A combined AMC Networks-BBC America channel group creates a powerful collection of networks that are among the most critically acclaimed, with distinct dramas and other potent content that creates a deep connection with viewers,” says AMC chief Josh Sapan. “Our content rises to the top on many levels and is particularly well-suited to an era of on-demand viewing and expanding consumer choice.”
The companies have already worked together on productions including Top Of The Lake and Honourable Woman. “Like us, they are committed to the kind of high quality, unmissable content that is already gained BBC America one of the most educated, affluent and tech-savvy audiences in all of U.S. television, with a powerful social media following,” says BBC worldwide CEO Tim Davie.
AMC’s deal differs from a previous representation arrangement BBC America had with Discovery: It did not own equity. The combination with AMC should help BBC America at a time when the business landscape is becoming precarious for independent cable channels. Many distributors, eager to cut their programming outlays, are looking to drop networks that appeal to relatively narrow or niche audiences.