But three days after the call, MoffettNathanson warned that the traditional TV business was declining faster than expected, saying that AMC might never return to the free cash flows it once generated. Then, on Nov. 29, AMC Networks said that Ms. Spade had stepped down, about three months into her tenure as chief executive. The board concluded that she wasn’t the right leader to steer AMC Networks through the turbulent period ahead, according to a person with knowledge of the decision, and gave her a separation package worth about $10 million.
Ms. Spade did not respond to requests for comment.
AMC Networks’ next moves will be determined by Mr. Dolan, who on Dec. 5 became executive chairman of the company, giving him latitude to work directly with AMC Networks’ management team. In a statement, AMC Networks said that it would continue distributing its shows and movies across multiple platforms, emphasizing advertising-supported streaming and making its traditional TV business more profitable with targeted advertising.
“The cost measures we are taking are focused on helping us navigate the current challenges being felt across the media industry as well as the broader economic outlook,” the statement said.
As Mr. Dolan contemplates the future of AMC Networks, industry speculation will inevitably turn to whether he will join his peers in considering a sale to a bigger rival. But it’s an inopportune time for that. Share prices are down across the media industry, as investors become increasingly skittish of unprofitable streaming services and declining cable TV businesses. And the ad market has soured, threatening to depress valuations further.
Complicating matters, AMC Networks doesn’t own some of the shows that it made famous, including “Mad Men,” which is owned by Lionsgate, and “Breaking Bad,” which is owned by Sony, according to people with knowledge with the matter. But AMC Networks does own “The Walking Dead,” and it has already begun to promote new shows from the Anne Rice Immortal Universe franchise. The company’s library value could weigh on any price that the company is able to command in a sale.
“Scary to be a buyer of AMC Networks as their channel portfolio is no longer must-carry by distributors,” Mr. Greenfield said.