AMC Networks Earnings: ‘Walking Dead’ Return Leads to 22% Rise in US Ad Sales

Streaming revenue increases 14% in Summer 2021 quarter

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

AMC Networks’ U.S. ad sales rose 22% year-over-year during the third quarter of 2021, when AMC’s “The Walking Dead” premiered its 11th and final season, the company reported Friday.

Also during the quarter ended Sept. 30, streaming revenue jumped 14% at the company. AMC Networks said it is “on track” to reach its year-end streaming subscriber target of 9 million paid customers across its SVOD platforms: AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK.

The 22% increase in domestic advertising revenue counts all of AMC Networks’ “Domestic Operations,” which includes the company’s national networks — AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV — as well as its streaming services — AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK — plus AMC Studios, IFC Films and AMC Networks Broadcasting & Technology.

AMC Networks reported an operating income of $188 million, up 35% from Q2 2020. With some favorable adjustments, that sum rose to $225 million, which is up 21% from last year.

Revenues at AMC Networks’ domestic operations were $683 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 25% compared to Q3 2020.

Ad revenue was up the above-mentioned 22% “due to higher pricing and ad-supported streaming growth, and an increase in the number of episodes of our original programming, partially offset by lower linear ratings,” per AMC Networks, which debuted the 11th and final season of “The Walking Dead” Aug. 22 on AMC and a week early on AMC+.

Distribution sales rose 26%, with subscription revenues increasing 14%, driven by a spike in subs that was partially offset by a decrease in linear affiliate revenues as a result of increased cord-cutting. Content licensing revenues rose 60%, due to the amount of content that had previously been delayed due to the pandemic during 2020.

AMC Networks’ domestic side saw an operating income increase of 19% to $213 million. With adjustments, operating income increased 12% to $231 million.

In Q3, AMC Networks’ “International and Other” segment revenue was $130 million, up 17% compared to the prior year’s comparable quarter. That segment includes AMC Networks International (AMCNI), the company’s international programming businesses consisting of a portfolio of channels around the world, and 25/7 Media Holdings LLC (formerly Levity), the company’s production services business.

Distribution and “other” revenues in this segment were +13%.

International ad sales increased 34%, which is also largely related to the favorable foreign currency translation at AMCNI, plus higher pricing and better ratings.

The international segment saw an operating income of $16 million, up 409% from Q3 2020’s $3.1 million. With adjustments, operating income rose to $22 million.

Overall, AMC Networks smashed analysts’ expectations for 2021’s Q3.

Wall Street forecast earnings per share (EPS) of $1.22 on $706.07 million in revenue, according to a consensus compiled by Yahoo Finance. On Friday, AMC Networks reported adjusted EPS of $2.68 on $810.766 million in revenue.

At the end of August, AMC Networks’ longtime president and chief executive officer Josh Sapan stepped down from his role and transitioned to an executive vice chairman position. AMC Networks brought on former Showtime Networks chief Matthew Blank to serve as interim chief executive officer while the company conducts a search for a replacement for Sapan.

One month later, AMC Networks’ chief operating officer Ed Carroll set his end-of-the-year exit.

“AMC Networks is in a very strong position, underscored by its third quarter revenue and AOI growth of 24% and 21%, respectively,” Blank said in a statement prepared to accompany the Q3 financials on Friday. “In anticipation of having a strong finish to the year, we are increasing our full year financial guidance for total company revenue and AOI. We continue to see subscriber acquisition momentum and high engagement across our targeted streaming portfolio of AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK, and are on track to deliver our year-end streaming target to achieve 9 million paid subscribers. We are building a streaming business that is sustainable and will be profitable over the long term, and with our owned IP, our library of high-quality content, and our strong legacy channels business, we have the right assets to drive growth and increase shareholder value.”

AMC Networks stock closed Thursday at $42.97 per share. The regular U.S. stock markets will reopen at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Blank and other AMC Networks executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the quarter in greater detail.