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AMC Networks CEO on Why ‘Super-Niche’ Horror Streamer Shudder Is ‘Extraordinarily Beneficial Economically’

Josh Sapan explains what is “uniquely attractive” about “targeted” services like Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC

AMC Networks president and CEO Josh Sapan said Tuesday that his horror-centric streaming service Shudder is “doing extraordinarily well” and explained why having that “super-niche” platform — and a few others in Acorn TV, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel (UMC) — is “extraordinarily beneficial economically.”

“It really does begin with defining an audience appetite, an audience segment, and serving it — because they’re making independent decisions about whether they like it or not,” Sapan said during a call with investors following the release of AMC Networks’ second-quarter earnings. “What is uniquely attractive about targeted subscription services, which is somewhat less true of something-for-everyone, big SVOD services, is they are slightly less individual-show dependent.”

“So I do believe that you’ll hear, anecdotally, conversations among particularly younger people [who] say, ‘Well, my favorite show is off that subscription service, so I’m going to quit and I’ll re-subscribe if it comes back on. I’m moving on into new services.’ The subscribers to the British service Acorn or to Shudder have less of that dialogue going on.”

“They actually identify with and are interested in the steady flow of material there,” Sapan continued. “Which is not to say we don’t have hits by degree… but [these services] don’t create as much absolute, individual show or series dependency for a subscription. That is a genetic quality that I think is extraordinarily beneficial economically in the subscription world, because it means you’re not running high rates of churn… A subscriber life is better and you’re frankly not as dependent on bidding for the next show and writing a bigger, fatter, more miraculous check in order to command the attention of the world.”

As part of the Tuesday filing, AMC Networks said it’s “delivered impressive year-over-year growth in revenues and subscribers” across its four SVOD platforms. After reporting its first-quarter 2020 earnings, AMC Networks said it now expects to see 3.5 million to 4.0 million paid subscribers between Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) by year-end 2020. On Tuesday, Sapan and the team told investors they expect to come out on the higher end of that range by year’s end.

Sapan gave specific examples of what does well on AMC Networks’ SVODs, calling “Creepshow” a “mini hit” on Shudder, and French series “The Bureau,” which streams on Sundance Now, “frankly, it’s own goddamn ‘Game of Thrones'” among a “smaller group.”

You can find AMC Networks’ Q2 earnings results here.