UPDATE with stock trading info: AMC Networks shares soared about 13% this morning after the programmer reported Q4 earnings that topped Wall Street expectations.
CEO Josh Sapan said in December that advertising in the year-end period looked lighter than he had anticipated. Some analysts followed by slashing their ad sales estimates, figuring that the number would be roughly flat with last year.
But today’s report shows that domestic ad sales were up 3.1%, with price hikes offsetting lower ratings — including for AMC’s hit The Walking Dead.
The Q4 results include a $68 million impairment charge tied to reduced profit estimates for AMC’s Amsterdam-based media logistics facility. With that in the mix, net income came in a $14.5 million, down from $90.1 million in the last three months of 2015. Revenues at $729.6 million were up 7.5%.
The top line was well ahead of the $709.8 million that the Street expected. And after factoring out the impairment charge, earnings came in at $1.30 a share, ahead of expectations for $1.26.
The Walking Dead “remains the No. 1 show on television by a wide margin and is a powerful example of programming that we own and distribute that commands a loyal audience, attracts advertising revenue, and has significant ancillary revenues that will benefit our business for years to come,” Sapan says. “With a rapidly expanding studio business, we now have a growing portfolio of shows that we own that provide this kind of opportunity for our business. In addition, we are embracing changing viewing habits by making strategic investments in streaming services that fit well with our programming and the audiences at our network brands.”
AMC’s National Networks unit — which includes AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV as well as AMC Studios — reported operating income of $189.1 million on revenues of $614.1 million. Both numbers were up 9.2%.
In addition to the increase in ad sales, affiliate revenues — including licensing — jumped 15.6%. Operating expenses also rose, but were offset by a reduction in marketing expenses. AMC took a $5 million programming write-down, lower than the $16 million it took in the period last year.
The International and Other operation, which includes IFC Films, didn’t fare as well, especially with the Amsterdam impairment charge. The operating loss increased to $87.8 million from $12.5 million while revenues dropped 0.5% to $118.6 million.
IFC Films’ revenues dropped, but were partly offset by increases at AMC Networks International.
Today’s report notes that AMC in January added $8 million to the loans it agreed to offer in October to RLJ Entertainment for a 50.1% stake in the operation led by BET founder Robert Johnson. AMC’s loan is now pegged at $73 million.