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AMC Networks Inc (AMCX)’s Killer Content Comes at Too High a Price

AMC Networks (AMCX)There is no doubting that AMC Networks Inc (NASDAQ:AMCX) has been on a roll lately. The cable company’s current breadwinner, The Walking Dead, is driving unbelievable numbers from the most sought-after demographic: ages 18 to 49. With other highly valuable titles coming up for their final and penultimate seasons, things don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. But with a rich valuation and some eyebrow-raising ideas coming from management, should AMC be on your stock shopping list?

Killin’ it!
First off, I think AMC is a very well run company that has done a phenomenal job rebranding itself and attracting best-in-class programming and showrunners. Management wisely cuddled up with Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) to offer early seasons of its big-draw shows on the streaming content provider — a move that many believe has driven the consistently record-breaking season premiers. The Walking Dead just had its second-half season premiere, and it drew 12.3 million viewers — easily topping the previous record (season three’s first-half premiere) of 10.9 million. It was the strongest telecast for a series in basic cable history for the 18-to-49 demographic, drawing in 7.7 million of the late-teenagers through midlife-crisis-ers.

The show went head-to-head with other powerhouse shows: Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, 80-year-old-women-perennial-favorite NCIS, and even the seemingly unstoppable Duck Dynasty.

In the business where content is king, AMC looks like royalty.

Mad king?
According to various reports, AMC management is considering switching The Walking Dead over to its sister channel, IFC. IFC doesn’t get near the ratings AMC does, though it does have some interesting shows (Portlandia has been a hit among young adults). The company is thinking that pulling its top show from AMC to IFC is a way to boost ratings and raise the channel’s awareness. I find this to be a terrible idea.

Switching The Walking Dead will cannibalize those beautiful ratings that AMC has been bathing in the last several quarters. It will confuse loyal show fans, who will wonder if something has changed. It will anger advertisers. If you can’t tell, I don’t think they should do this.

It’s just a discussion, assures management, and other ideas include airing reruns of the show on IFC or airing first-run episodes simultaneously on AMC and IFC. But, with previous seasons available on Netflix, I don’t see how this will be a big boost to IFC at all. Will someone please not let them go with option No. 1?

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