As the streaming wars heat up, AMC Networks is keeping one of its big guns — the upcoming third series in the Walking Dead franchise — for itself and its own direct-to-consumer platforms.
Speaking on the company’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday, CEO Josh Sapan noted that the company had done a lucrative deal with Amazon to distribute the series overseas, outside of territories where AMC owns networks.
“However, in the U.S. we are holding back rights that we’ve traditionally sold to third parties,” Sapan said. “So domestically we will not sell the SVOD rights to this third Walking Dead series, but rather the series will be used to fuel our own platforms, both streaming as well as linear, as we window it and take full advantage of the opportunities that it presents for us.”
The new Walking Dead series, set to have its linear premiere in the second quarter, could be a good fit for AMC Premiere, the company’s ad-free services, or Shudder, it’s horror-based SVOD service, Sapan suggested.
But Sapan noted that AMC would be looking at the best way to monetize its shows on a case-by-case basis.
He noted that the series Nos4a2 premiered on the AMC channel in the U.S. and then went to two of AMC’s streaming platforms, Shudder and AMC Premiere.
A Discovery of Witches, on the other hand, debuted earlier this year on Shudder and Sundance Now, driving record usage and subscriber acquisition. Then it appeared on AMC channel, where it delivered strong ratings, he said.
“These examples illustrate how our multiple platforms are creating increasingly varied past to monetization and significant and different opportunities for our intellectual property, content engine,” he said.
Sapan also noted that AMC’s streaming services don’t really compete with the heavyweights from Comcast, AT&T, Disney and Apple that will be duking it out.
Instead AMC’s streaming services are hyper targeted and focused and “are thriving and we believe will continue to thrive, alongside what some may call the Something for Everyone SVOD category that is becoming more crowded and competitive by the day,” he said.
“The economic fundamentals around these targeted services have great attributes and are, in some cases, particularly for a company like ours, superior to the general entertainment SVOD category as there’s not the same pressure on retail price and there is not the same share battle,” Sapan said, noting that Acorn TV, AMC’s streaming service specializing in British shows, increased its price by $1 a month yet continued to grow.
Acorn TV recently passed the 1 million subscriber threshold, he noted, and AMC has been telling analysts it expects to have more than 2 million subscribers among all its services. “We are in fact now pacing to be ahead of that stated target,” Sapan said.
The company expects its streaming businesses to cross 3.5 million to 4 million cumulative subs by 2022 and by 2024 its said it plans to be in the 5 million to 7 million subscriber range. At that point, those services will be generating $500 million, the company forecasts.
“AMC Networks is well on its way to strategically transforming itself from a cable channels company into a premier content company with a suite of focused and targeted video entertainment products that are delivered to viewers on an ever expanding array of platforms,” Sapan said.
“And as our TV series come off their exhibition windows on main stream streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, they will then come back to us, AMC Networks, for the first time, representing a new business opportunity as we make determinations around the optimal utilization of that content,” he said.