Cablevision Catches Sight of a Double Rainbow

All systems are go for Cablevision’s spinoff of its Rainbow Networks programming unit, as the operator is eyeing a summertime rollout. Upon completion of the spinoff, the publicly traded company will do business under a new moniker, AMC Networks.

Rainbow Media chief Josh Sapan will assume the role of president and CEO of AMC Networks.

Adopting the AMC nameplate is a reflection of the eponymous cable network’s meteoric rise to prominence. Once a backwater of iffy movies like Jaws IV: The Revenge, AMC boasts cable’s most critically acclaimed lineup of original drama series in Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

Sibling nets WE tv, Sundance Channel and IFC will join AMC under the new umbrella, but there’s little question as to which brand carries the most prestige.  

“Recognized by consumers, advertisers and investors alike…AMC has become one of the most established of [the Rainbow] brands,” Sapan said, by way of announcing the name change. “As we move forward, we want to capitalize on that strong brand awareness for what will be our new public company.”   

AMC closed out 2010 ranked 20th among all basic cable nets, with an average prime-time draw of 1.09 million total viewers. While much of that success can be chalked up to the network’s movie acquisitions, AMC’s original series are what generates the most heat. For example, The Walking Dead was the No. 1 show on cable among the top demos, averaging 4.55 million viewers 18-49 and 4.01 million adults 25-54.

Sapan joined Rainbow in 1987 as president of AMC and Bravo, the latter of which was acquired in 2002 by NBCUniversal for some $1.25 billion. He was named CEO of the programming unit in 1995.

While one of the industry’s longest-running parlor games has been to guess when Cablevision would sell off the Rainbow business, the new entity will remain in the Dolan family portfolio.

“Much of the success of Rainbow over the past quarter century is due in no small part to Josh Sapan,” said Cablevision president and CEO James Dolan. “He has…overseen the creation of some of the world’s most compelling television brands and is the ideal executive to provide the leadership necessary as a new AMC Networks becomes a public company.”