AMC Networks to Buy 49.9 Percent Stake in BBC America for $200 Million

Adrian Rogers, BBC/BBC Worldwide
'Doctor Who'

BBC Worldwide has been looking to strengthen its channel in carriage talks with pay TV operators

AMC Networks has agreed to acquire a 49.9 percent stake in BBC Worldwide's BBC America for $200 million.

The cable networks company and the commercial arm of U.K. public broadcaster BBC announced the deal Thursday after reports of their talks first emerged over the summer. The channel airs such BBC favorites as Doctor Who, Sherlock, Top Gear and Planet Earth.

"A combined AMC Networks-BBC America channel group creates a powerful collection of networks that are among the most critically-acclaimed, with distinct dramas and other potent content that creates a deep connection with viewers," said Josh Sapan, AMC Networks president and CEO, in a statement. "Our content rises to the top on many levels and is particularly well-suited to an era of on-demand viewing and expanding consumer choice."

AMC Networks operates the AMC, Sundance, WE tv and IFC channels, can now add the so-far independent BBC America when it negotiates carriage fees, giving both partners increased leverage in talks with pay TV operators.

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BBC Worldwide will get to use AMC Networks’ programming and advertising expertise, with AMC Networks also consolidating the channel's results. AMC Networks will have operational control, including affiliate and advertising sales, and run BBC America  "consistent with BBC’s editorial standards and policies,” the companies said. AMC Networks didn't immediately provide any financial or oprational forecasts for BBC America and how it will affect its own financials.

BBC America is currently available in approximately 80 million U.S. households.

BBC America general manager Perry Simon will leave the post after a transition period, with BBC Worldwide looking for a new role for him. AMC Networks didn't immediately announce a successor.

“The U.S. is an important market for the BBC’s commercial activities. This partnership brings together the whole BBC and will help us reach new audiences in the U.S., strengthen BBC America’s position for the long term and create opportunities for the UK creative community," said Tony Hall, BBC director general and chairman of BBC Worldwide. "We've already worked successfully with AMC Networks on award-winning productions of Top of the Lake and The Honorable Woman and this partnership means we can produce even more top quality drama together. And I hope this is the beginning of us working together on other future projects too.”

BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie last month said that BBC America continues to have strong ratings, but is one of few independent networks in the U.S. market, which is "consolidating quickly," meaning a deal with a bigger networks group made sense.

"AMC Networks is the ideal partner for BBC Worldwide," Davie said Thursday. "Like us, they are committed to the kind of high-quality, unmissable content that has already gained BBC America one of the most educated, affluent and tech savvy audiences in all of U.S. television, with a powerful social media following."

Oct. 24, 5 p.m. Updated with some added personnel and other information.

Twitter: @georgszalai