AMC Networks execs’ efforts this morning to reassure investors about the prospects for the company’s diversification efforts apparently worked: AMC shares are up nearly 3% following a conference call to discuss the disappointing Q3 earnings out this morning, which helped to depress the stock price to a 52-week low in early trading.
The surprisingly anemic performance in Q3 was due in part to audience defections to news networks to keep up with this year’s dramatic presidential election, the company says.
It predicts that Q4 will improve with the strong initial ratings for the latest season of The Walking Dead, and double digit percentage increases in ad pricing as upfront deals kick in.
CEO Josh Sapan says he’s especially upbeat about AMC’s efforts to produce and own the shows it airs. AMC Studios has eight scripted dramas on the company’s channels, with three more in production.
“That’s a level of output that rivals some of the more well established TV studios,” Sapan says.
It pays off “in the linear [TV] window and when we sell to domestic subscription video on demand platforms like Hulu and Netflix,” he adds. “We benefit from licensing and merchandising, and when we sell our content overseas to our own AMC International channels as well as to third parties.”
AMC networks are represented on Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and the soon-to-launch DirecTV Now.
Sapan wouldn’t say whether he expects to be on Hulu’s live streaming platform, to be launched next year. Generally speaking, he acknowledges “we’re in conversations with all of them.”
He adds that “AMC Networks’ wholesale price is relatively extremely low for the value that we put on the screen…We have killer shows and killer brands and we’re priced very well below alternative packages. We think that makes us unusually attractive for anyone setting up a new bundle.”
AT&T’s $85 billion agreement to buy Time Warner reflects well on the content business, the AMC chief says.
“It seems to be an acknowledgement that brands and content that are important matter a lot in the world, and if you want to succeed as a distributor and you have an electronic signal that’s going out to a big screen, a little screen, a mobile screen or a fixed screen,it is really nice and important to have the shows and the brands that people care about most.”