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AMC Networks pays $200 million in deal to operate BBC America

AMC Networks has completed a deal to acquire a 49.9% equity stake in BBC Worldwide’s BBC America cable channel for $200 million.

The deal forges a relationship between the cable network company, which boasts such shows as “The Walking Dead” and “Rectify,” and the cable outlet that is home to such shows as “Doctor Who” and “Orphan Black.”

As part of the joint venture, which was announced Thursday after months of talks, New York-based AMC will take over operational control. It will handle affiliate and advertising sales and manage the channel “consistent with BBC’s editorial standards and policies.”

AMC chief Josh Sapan told The Times on Thursday that it was a logical move for the two parties.

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“We really have for a long time appreciated the effect and success of BBC America and what they’ve done from a content point of view. Their work speaks for itself. We share an editorial vision. And joining forces improves and increases all of that.”

BBC America is currently available in approximately 80 million homes in the U.S. – about four-fifths of the U.S. pay-TV households.

The deal enhances the AMC Networks roster, which consists of AMC, WE tv, SundanceTV and IFC networks. BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp., will retain 50.1% ownership.

“What we think this is underpinned by is not size-pitching, but by the sort of alignment of vision and the alighnment of what we can make and do more of together,” Sapan said.

In his statement, Tim Davie, CEO, BBC Worldwide and director, global, also pointed to a like-mindedness between the two companies -- and the prospects for growth.

“BBC America is a unique and upscale asset, with eight straight years of ratings growth behind it,” Davie said. “By creating a stronger force with shared creative sensibilities, this partnership secures the continuation of that growth into the future.”

Sapan maintains that the deal is not meant to be seen as a steppingstone to full ownership in the future.

“That’s not the plan,” he said. “We’re really delighted with what we did in the arrangement and don’t see that changing.”

The move further deepens the relationship between the two companies. AMC and BBC have already partnered on series such as “The Honourable Woman” and “Top of the Lake.”

The arrangement also is expected to benefit BBC because AMC should be able to extract higher fees from pay-TV distributors to carry the channel. BBC Worldwide had just one channel in the U.S., limiting its leverage during negotiations with distributors.

Another bullet point in the deal: AMC will handle U.S. distribution and domestic advertising sales of BBC World News, which is available in more than 30 million homes in the country.

BBC Worldwide North America -- the U.S.-based production arm -- will remain a wholly owned regional business within BBC Worldwide, “focused on program and format sales and co-production relationships, scripted and unscripted production, consumer products, digital and live events,” according to the deal’s announcement.

Twitter: @villarrealy


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