The cable networks company known for its hits The Walking Dead and Mad Men could use the deal to further establish itself as a leading distributor of premium content — strengthening its ability to sell ads and negotiate high fees from cable and satellite companies. Bankers and executives are working on a cash and stock deal, I’m told — but with no dollar figures yet.
The arrangement would give AMC Networks just short of a majority stake in BBC America, unlike a previous representation arrangement with Discovery, which did not own equity. While BBC Worldwide would still control the channel and brand, AMC would be able to influence programming decisions and handle BBC America’s domestic ad sales and distribution. Talks have been ongoing for several months, but a deal isn’t complete. Bloomberg was first to report the negotiations.
AMC and BBC know each other well. They’re co-producers of The Honorable Woman, which premieres tomorrow on SundanceTV. Last year they partnered on Sundance’s Top Of the Lake, and they have an upcoming production, One Child.
AMC has been basking in the glow of successes including Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, and the anticipation for next year’s spinoff, Better Call Saul. And it has already made it clear that it wants to bulk up, especially overseas. Early this year it paid about $1B for Liberty Global’s Chellomedia collection of channels.
Still, some investors wonder whether AMC might be too dependent on a few shows — and unable to keep pace with rivals at a time of mega mergers between distributors led by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and AT&T and DirecTV, and potentially Fox and Time Warner. In this period of merger mania, AMC — with a market cap of $4.4B — is seen as an affordable potential takeover target for companies such as CBS or Sony. That assumes Cablevision’s Charles and Jim Dolan, who control the networks company, are willing to sell.
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