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AMC Networks pumps $65m into SVOD net

AMC Networks has invested US$65 million in streaming service RLJ Entertainment.

RLJ owns the SVOD service Acorn TV, which offers best-of-British programming in the US, and digital service UMC (Urban Music Channel), and receives the money from cable group AMC in the form of loans.

This will allow RLJ, which BET founder Bob Johnson created, to refinance an existing senior credit facility, add working capital, reduce the cost of capital through lower interest rates and increase operational flexibility, the company said.

Furthermore, AMC has received warrants that, if exercised, will hand the company at least 50.1% of the RLJ common stock on a fully diluted basis.

Acorn currently has around 370,000 subscribers, and has grown quickly this year. AMC said bringing RLJ’s SVOD platforms together with cable channels BBC America, WE tv and IFC would allow them to “to cross-promote, develop and distribute content ultimately reaching even more viewers of high-quality British television dramas, urban content, and independent film”.

“We have deep respect for Bob Johnson and the many businesses he’s built, from BET to Acorn TV and UMC,” said Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks. “Bob is a talented entrepreneur with a real understanding of the power of strong brands and a proven ability to identify and provide premium content to a wide range of audiences by tapping into the demand for content that uniquely fits their specific consumer interests.

“Much like the early days of cable, and AMC Networks’ own history of providing quality programming to targeted audiences, RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn TV and UMC appeal to consumers with quality programming that represents diverse voices.

“Our investment is a strategic opportunity to provide capital and additional resources to RLJ Entertainment as they continue to explore their many opportunities for growth, and while we consider the many potentially powerful synergies with our innovative partners at the BBC, and our own WE tv network.”

RLJ also owns 64% of Agatha Christie Ltd, which controls the rights to the celebrated novelist’s catalogue, and has been becoming more active in the original programming space through UK development arm Acorn Media Enterprises, recently replacing Starz as the BBC’s coproduction partner on Stephen Poliakoff drama Close to the Enemy.

AMC Networks, meanwhile, has been launching its AMC Global channel around the world.