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There Are Fears AMC Investors Won't Survive After 'The Walking Dead' Ends

There Are Fears AMC Investors Won't Survive After 'The Walking Dead' Ends

Jefferies initiated AMC Networks Inc (NASDAQ: AMCX) with a Hold rating and $72 price target, and expressed concerns on over exposure to "The Walking Dead" franchise.

"In our view, it will be important for AMC to develop new hit programming in 2016, especially considering that The Walking Dead franchise could be nearing its peak as ratings have slipped ~8% in Season 6 (Live +SD)," analyst John Janedis wrote in a note.

Janedis continued, "The market is focused on AMC's programming slate as T.W.D. enters its 7th season in 4Q, viewing the franchise's eventual displacement as a risk - we est. T.W.D. will generate more than 25% of US adv. in '16. Overall, we believe that the network will carry up to 102 original drama episodes in '16, from 80 in '15, driven by the launch of 3 new originals and expanded episode orders of existing series."

Related Link: AMC Sends Message With 'Into The Badlands' Renewal

Given the higher CPMs (Cost Per Thousand) generated by originals, the analyst expects the lift in original hours will drive 7 percent growth in domestic advertising in 2016, well ahead of AMC's peer group.

"Although we anticipate an increase in programming costs (+HSD), we expect that the National Net segment will maintain a stable margin in '16 (in line w/ mgmt. commentary)," Janedis highlighted.

On a positive note, the analyst believes "AMCX's networks are less exposed to sub declines than peers, particularly due to their relatively low cost of carriage and superior ratings trends. Further, as AMCX shifts toward owning more of its programming (vs. licensing) we believe it will benefit from expanding ancillary revenue streams (i.e. SVOD/ Int'l licensing)."

Janedis said the company's international expansion is in early stages and could be a significant contributor in the long term.

Meanwhile, the analyst sees advertising in the National Networks segment will decline about 4 percent in the first quarter due to one less episode of "The Walking Dead"/"Talking Dead", and two less episodes of "Better Call Saul" vs. 2015, as a portion of programming shifts into the second quarter.

"Looking ahead to 2Q16, we expect 27% growth in advertising driven by 13 more original episodes than 2Q15, including extra episodes from The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, and Better Call Saul, in addition to 3 new original series. Further, we expect that 4Q will be pressured as the second season of Into the Badlands is not expected to launch until 2017 (season 1 aired in 4Q15)," Janedis noted.

Notably, the analyst expects "The Walking Dead" franchise to generate more than $260 million in advertising revenue, or 26 percent of 2016 estimated National Networks advertising revenue.

The analyst expects first quarter EPS and revenue at $1.77 and $686 million, respectively. For 2016, Jefferies anticipates EPS of $5.73 and revenue of $2.769 billion.

Janedis said the key risks for the company include high exposure to "The Walking Dead." The analyst also warned that margin expansion will be difficult as AMCX transitions to owning more content (vs. licensing).

Image credit: Casey Florig, Flickr

Latest Ratings for AMCX

Nov 2020Morgan StanleyMaintainsEqual-Weight
Oct 2020JP MorganDowngradesNeutralUnderweight
Jul 2020Goldman SachsInitiates Coverage OnSell

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