AMC Networks reports 40% revenue uptick, but cord cutting is a concern

Driven by powerful cable TV programming hits like The Walking Dead, AMC Networks utterly defied downward industry trends in the fourth quarter to post a whopping 40% revenue increase to $609.4 million.

Net income, meanwhile, rose 119 percent to $77.62 million. But just as it is for its pay-TV operator partners, cord cutting remains a concern for AMC Networks, with carriage for the AMC flagship channel down 2.4 million subscribers in 2014.

While crediting AMC Networks' recent international expansion, CEO Josh Sapan said, "The strong performance of our original programming with record ratings at our national networks has led to continued increases in affiliate fees and advertising revenues."

Revenue for U.S. networks AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and Sundance TV increased nearly 20 percent to $499.8 million in Q4, with ad sales spiking 24.3 percent to $255 million in a spongy soft market.

Licensing revenue from pay-TV providers rose 15.3 percent to $245 million.

Despite the stellar Q4 performance, there is still rampant speculation that AMC is looking to be bought out by a larger media conglomerate like 21st Century Fox.

Media analysts believe the recent acquisition of former investment banker Gregg Siebert as vice chairman of AMC Networks tips the programming company's hand.

"Clearly, he is there to do deals," said FBN Securities' Robert Routh, in a note excerpt published by Seeking Alpha. "Either it's going to be a big sale or a big acquisition or possibly a privatization. The question is, what is it?"

For more:
- read this AMC Networks earnings release
- read this Variety story
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this Seeking Alpha post

Related links:
'Better Call Saul' sets cable-TV ratings record, could save AMC's bacon
Sling TV launches nationwide, adds AMC Networks channels, sports pack
AMC will not go OTT, CEO Sapan says