AMC Networks has persevered through ad-agency turmoil and a zombie apocalypse, but it it is apparently being undone by Hollywood’s streaming wars.
The company, known for high-end cable dramas like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” warned employees Monday of “significant cut backs in operations” amid a deteriorating economic outlook after its CEO, Christina Spade, abruptly departed.
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“As I am sure you are aware our industry has been under pressure from growing subscriber losses. This is primarily due to ‘cord cutting,'” James Dolan, AMC Networks’ chairman, said in a memo to staffers. “At the same time we have seen the rise of direct to consumer streaming apps including our own AMC+. It was our belief that cord cutting losses would be offset by gains in streaming. This has not been the case. We are primarily a content company and the mechanisms for the monetization of content are in disarray.”
He projected a “a large-scale layoff as well as cuts to every operating area of AMC Networks.”
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, AMC said that Spade was terminated “without ’cause’ or resignation for ‘good reason’ basis,” and that she would receive “severance benefits payable in accordance with the terms of her employment agreement.” Spade had just taken the reins of the company in early September.
An AMC Networks spokesperson said the company had no additional comment.
Like other media companies, AMC has struggled with current economic trends. The company’s third quarter profit dropped to $84.7 million compared with $110.7 million in the year-earlier period. Revenue fell 16% to $6821 million, with advertising revenue down 16% to $407 million.
Last week, Walt Disney Co. raised eyebrows by switching CEOs in abrupt fashion, ousting Bob Chapek in favor of a return by his predecessor, Bob Iger. Media companies large and small are facing severe challenges as consumers migrate away from traditional TV and toward streaming video on demand. The switch in consumer patterns has caused concerns about generating the sizable and simultaneous audiences that have been the bulwark of the entertainment sector and represent the leverage the companies have with advertisers.
Spade joined AMC Networks in January 2021 as executive vice president and CFO, and was given the added duties of chief operating officer in November of last year. She has supervised key businesses, financial operations, investor relations and global technology. Before taking the CFO role at ViacomCBS, she had similar duties at the former CBS Corp,, and, prior to that, at its Showtime pay-cable unit, capping off a 21-year run there. Before joining Showtime Networks, Spade was an audit manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers in its entertainment, media and communications practice.
Spade had taken the reins of a small but influential media company whose size is often belied by its TV efforts. AMC has launched series such as “Better Call Saul” to outsize critical acclaim, but the company is still vastly smaller than its competitors. AMC Networks has been diligently launching broadband businesses in past months. Its streaming portfolio includes AMC+ and venues aimed at specific audience niches including Acorn TV, ALLBLK, HIDIVE, Shudder and Sundance Now.
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