AMC Networks Tops Q1 Street Forecasts on Strength of ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Better Call Saul’

AMC Networks posted a 27.5% jump in revenue for the first quarter of 2015, as the cable programmer handily beat analysts estimates on both the top and bottom lines.

Q1 net revenue was $669 million, led by 25.4% growth for AMC’s national networks unit, which saw operating income climb 42.5%. Net income from continuing operations was $121 million ($1.66 per share), compared with $72 million ($0.99 per share) in the first quarter of 2014.

“Viewers continue to embrace our original programming, including AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and our new original series ‘Better Call Saul,’ which was the most-watched new series on cable in key advertiser demos this broadcast season,” AMC president and CEO Josh Sapan said in announcing the results Monday.

For the three months ended March 31, AMC reported net cash provided by operating activities of $80 million (up $6 million from a year earlier) and free cash flow of $62 million (down $6 million year-over-year). The company said the decrease in free cash flow was primarily related to an increase in capital spending, which more than offset its improved operating performance.

“As we have long known, today’s results represent the potential AMC has for earnings beats when costs are controlled and the company monetizes a programming slate with TV’s biggest show (‘Walking Dead’),” MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note. However, given the company’s prior guidance of “stable” margins in the national networks group for 2015, “the obvious question is whether or not today’s beat is partially attributable to timing.”

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