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The Walking Dead: Bad Ratings Have Cost the AMC Channel Half It’s Worth (Nearly Billions)

Published on March 22nd, 2022 | Updated on March 22nd, 2022 | By FanFest

AMC Networks will conclude three popular series this year — “Better Call Saul,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Killing Eve” — and replace them with a slew of undead new series. There’s “Interview With a Vampire,” which stars Eric Bogosian, as well as the Anne Rice-based “Mayfair Witches,” led by Alexandra Daddario, in addition to the return of “Fear the Walking Dead” later this year, along with an episodic anthology series called “Tales of the Walking Dead.”

Their ranks will swell in 2023 with “Isle of the Dead,” which features popular “Walking Dead” actors Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan, as well as a previously announced “Walking Dead” spinoff that will have Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride. That adds up to five additional “The Walking Dead” prequels. (“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” concluded last year after a two-season run.)

The task of replacing long-running O.G. “Walking Dead” is a tall order — it was the most watched series in cable television history when it aired — but AMC isn’t new to this situation. When “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” concluded in 2013 and 2015, respectively, the future of AMC Network was up in the air, as it had been four years earlier following the debut of “The Walking Dead.” In 2010, with the release of “The Walking Dead,” AMC proved that it was more than a two-show channel.

What remains to be seen is whether AMC can continue to maintain its premium programming status. AMC Networks, the cable channel bundle (AMC Network, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv, and IFC Films) as well as streaming services (AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now), are all returning “Kevin Can F**k Himself,’” “Gangs of London,’” and “Kin.

AMC has committed to new series “61st Street,” “Dark Winds,” “Moonhaven,” and “Pantheon” for 2022-2023 as well as the return of “The Driver” with Giancarlo Esposito from “Better Call Saul”/”Breaking Bad.

AMC can develop films and television projects from any of Rice’s 18 novels in the “The Vampire Chronicles” and “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” book series, as long as they follow certain conditions.

Since the debut of “The Walking Dead,” its massive popularity has shown to be an exception: In terms of viewership, almost nothing on regular television today compares to what zombies drew in terms of audience size. AMC is seizing the new reality of cord-cutting and audience fragmentation by investing in a variety of specialized streaming services.

“We’re growing a business that is less speculative, less costly, and more sustainable than larger players trying to deliver something to everyone in a household,” AMC Networks’ interim CEO Matt Blank said on the company’s February earnings call. “Simply put, we’re not trying to be something for everyone. We are instead trying to be everything to someone.”

In terms of overall development, specialty programming makes slow progress and Wall Street isn’t interested in the “everything to someone” strategy unless the someone pays at most $8.99 per month — which includes AMC+ access (it also includes access to Shudder and Sundance Now). Acorn TV, a platform dedicated to primarily British content, is $6.99 per month; so is Sundance Now; ALLBLK costs $5.99, with horror streamer Shudder costing $4.75.

AMC Networks’ fourth-quarter earnings report revealed that the firm has more than 9 million paid streaming subscribers across its portfolio at the end of 2021. After that, will AMC Networks still be a stand-alone publicly traded company?

AMC Networks has a market value of approximately $1.7 billion, which is around half the company’s worth when it was at its peak in 2015. To industry merger hungry, $1.7 billion is a quick meal: Amazon completed its $8.5 billion purchase of MGM on Thursday. The pending WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, which should take place in the next few weeks, was a $43 billion deal that was announced last week.

With AMC Leader Josh Sapan no longer in control (he retired last summer) and 71-year-old Matt Blank claiming the title of “interim CEO,” an AMC Networks acquisition is unlikely to include any corporate posturing for the (hypothetical) parent company’s C suite.

There’s just one issue, and it’s the same one Knicks and Rangers fans have been dealing with since the 1990s: James Dolan. The Dolan family, which owns the poorly performing Knicks (no championships since 1973) and Rangers (no titles since 1993-94 season; shortly thereafter sold), has 100 percent of AMC Networks’ Class B super-voting shares, allowing them to block any such takeover.

In 2011, Charles Dolan, James’ father, split AMC Networks from the family-owned cable provider Cablevision (since sold to Altice). Charles retired as AMC Networks chairman in 2020, handing over the reins to James. Ask Knicks (currently 12th place out of 15 teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference) fans how the James Dolan era has gone for them — no one wants the same for AMC.

Esentially, things aren’t looking up and they aren’t likely to win.


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