AMC Networks International (AMCNI) has signed an exclusive carriage deal with BT to launch its flagship AMC channel in the UK in September. The channel, known for hit series including Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, will be available exclusively to BT TV subscribers. Combined with the plan announced last week to bundle in the BT Sport pay TV package, the AMC deal emphasises the telco's focus on increasing uptake of its IPTV service.
AMC will not be the first third party channel to be distributed by BT TV, but it's the first exclusive. No details of the agreement were reported, but it a programmer like AMC would normally be expected to seek distribution with market leading pay TV platform Sky as well as with Virgin Media in order to benefit from increased reach. BTTV has 1.1 million subscribers at the end of March this year, compared to 11 million for Sky (of which IHS estimates 9.6 million are DTH subscribers in the UK), 3.7 million for Virgin and 1.4 million for IPTV service TalkTalk.
AMC launched outside the US for the first time in 2014. In every case, it rebranded the MGM channel to AMC. However, this was not an option in the UK as the MGM channel folded in early 2014. In Europe, the channel is available in three different feeds, with the most popular market being Spain with 0.8 million subscribers, according to IHS Technology estimates.
A UK launch is a highly significant move for a US pay TV programmer like AMCNI. IHS estimates that the UK is the largest pay TV market in Western Europe, generating 25% of total pay TV revenues ($ 41.4 billion in 2014). In 2014, it generated $ 1.7 billion from advertising and $3.7 billion from carriage fee deals, accounting for 50% of the total pay TV channel market in Western Europe.
The exclusive deal with BT is an attempt from the side of the operator to strengthen its entertainment offering along with its sports content, targeting younger demographics. AMC will be the only international entertainment channel carried exclusively on BT in the country; networks such as Fox and Universal are available on most platforms.
AMCNI said that upcoming drama series Fear The Walking Dead will premiere exclusively on the UK channel. However, because of AMC's long-standing absence from the international market, most of its flagship series have been licensed in the UK to linear TV channels like Fox and Sky Atlantic or over-the-top services like Netflix - which has the rights to Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. The impact of AMC on BTTV will thus depend largely on the unknown qualities of new series like Fear the Walking Dead, Into The Badlands and The Night Manager.