‘Dead’ Breathes Life Into AMC Networks

Zombie thriller helps scare up huge Q4 profits

Driven by a significant uptick in ad sales dollars, AMC Networks today reported a 53 percent jump in fourth-quarter profits.

The New York-based cable network group, which houses AMC, IFC, the Sundance Channel and WE tv, posted Q4 net income of $29.5 million, or 40 cents a share, compared to $19.3 million, or 28 cents a share, during the same period last year.

Ad sales revenue improved 15 percent, thanks in large part to higher rates and sell-out at AMC. Home to the critically acclaimed original dramas Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead and The Killing, AMC closed out Q4 ranked twelfth among all basic cable nets in the 18-to-49 demo.

Per Nielsen, AMC averaged 614,000 members of the dollar demo in prime time, up 12 percent from 546,000 in the fourth quarter of 2011. The network finished tenth in the 25-to-54 demo, averaging 643,000 viewers (up 9 percent).

While AMC Networks seemed to be firing on all cylinders, the company did take a hit on earnings from continuing operations, which dipped from $30 million to $29 million. Those results reflected an $18 million write off on the cancelled series Rubicon.

Rubicon was a rare miss for AMC. The Oct. 17, 2010, series finale delivered just 1.04 million viewers and a 0.2 rating in the 18-to-49 demo.

Without the charge for Rubicon, cash flow would have been up 25 percent in the quarter.

AMC Networks president and CEO Josh Sapan characterized 2011 as “a landmark year,” noting that the company delivered double-digit growth in net revenues, adjusted operating cash flow and operating income for the full year.”

Citing the phenomenon that is The Walking Dead––the zombie apocalypse drama is the top-rated series in cable TV history––Sapan said AMC Networks will continue to leverage its original content in order to “create value for shareholders, advertisers and distribution partners.”

While AMC reaches some 97 million households, the other three networks aren’t nearly as well distributed. WE tv is in 77 million homes, IFC passes 62 million and Sundance Channel has a long way to go before it attains critical mass, reaching just 40 million customers.

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