AMC Networks Buys Majority Stake in Comedy Venue Operator Levity Live

Levity Live - H - 2018
Levity Live

The acquisition fits into the company's focus on diversifying its revenue sources and expanding beyond traditional linear TV.

AMC Networks, led by CEO Josh Sapan, has acquired a majority stake in comedy venue operator and talent management company Levity Live, taking a stand for stand-up.

The cable networks operator that owns comedy channel brand IFC and previously made an investment in Funny or Die, which is behind IFC hit show Brockmire, gains the ability to reach fans through live events and tap into Levity’s talent pipeline and production capabilities.

Levity, whose brands include The Improv, has made primetime specials with the likes of Trevor Noah, Tracy Morgan, Margaret Cho, Sebastian Maniscalco and Gad Elmaleh. Terms of the Levity deal weren’t disclosed.

"In an era of continuing disruption to old models, IFC now has format, IP ownership and talent opportunities that are best-in-class across live, digital and linear TV," said Jennifer Caserta, president of IFC.

The acquisition fits into AMC Networks’ focus on diversifying its revenue sources and expanding beyond traditional linear TV. Among its growth moves, the company has been building out AMC Studios; launched subscription streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder; and bought stakes in streaming service BritBox and Acorn TV owner RLJ Entertainment, of which AMC recently said it will acquire outright control.

The deal is "an opportunity to bring together IFC’s smart, alternative comedy brand and Levity's large network of venues to create a multidimensional and fan-focused experiential comedy platform that can encompass live and televised comedy, digital extensions, and the development of new content formats, talent and IP," said AMC Networks.

"Just as our recent investment in Funny or Die allowed IFC to expand in the digital comedy space and explore new forms of content creation, this partnership with Levity Live connects our leading comedy brand with live venues across the country, opening up a world of new fan-focused and experiential opportunities as well as enhancing our ability to identify and cultivate emerging talent," said Caserta. "Through this strategic partnership, we can further bring the IFC brand to life by forging direct, real-world connections with fans across TV, digital and now, live events."

"IFC's strong comedy brand is a great partner for us," said Levity Live CEO Alireza Ghaemian. "Levity’s growing universe of live entertainment venues, and our ability to identify the next generation of emerging comics and develop original content for multiple platforms complements IFC perfectly and we’re excited to explore new opportunities and continue to deliver a premium comedy experience."