As major media stocks brace for earnings reports scheduled for next week, AMC Networks Inc. (AMCX) - Get AMC Networks Inc. Class A Report offered investors better results for the second quarter than some of its peers.
AMC, owner of "The Walking Dead," still the highest-rated show on television, said Thursday, Aug. 3, that advertising sales increased 2.6% year over year in the quarter ended June 30, a sign that quality programming still has the means to demand higher fees. The uptick in ad sales from AMC comes as both Time Warner Inc. (TWX) and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (SNI) posted results that trailed forecasts and, in the case of Scripps, lowered revenue guidance for the remainder of 2017.
Growth in ad sales is particularly impressive given that audience ratings fell 9% in the second quarter at AMC's networks, which include the flagship AMC along with IFC, Sundance TV and BBC America.
Its superior results are based in part on its programming. Recent Emmy nominations for the company include AMC's "Better Call Saul," IFC's "Documentary Now!" and BBC America's "Planet Earth II." Conspicuously, AMC Networks was the only media company without a broadcast network to be included by Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report in its YouTube TV.
So, despite enduring similar declines in pay-TV subscribers as its peers, AMC Networks in the second quarter was able to secure higher advertising rates, the company said in its second-quarter earnings statement. AMC blew away its earnings forecast, posting a net profit of $1.88 per share compared with a consensus analyst estimate of $1.39.
That AMC wasn't in the same wobbly boat as Time Warner and Scripps was cause for celebration. AMC Networks' shares on Thursday morning were up 3.5% to $64.72, extending its 2017 advance to 23.8%.
Baked into those shares is the bet that at some point in the not-too-distant future, some company from either the world of media or tech or a hybrid of the two will finally make an attractive offer to acquire AMC Networks. (TheStreet puts its bet on CBS Corp. (CBS) - Get CBS Corporation Class B Report in December.) After all, there aren't many independent, high-quality cable network owners still available, and AMC's stable of networks remain well operated with passionate fans.
If and when a takeout of AMC Networks takes place, it's also reasonable to imagine that the offer will be large and compelling, given that Discovery Communications Inc.'s (DISCA) - Get Discovery, Inc. Class A Report offer for Scripps Networks translated into a 34% premium to where the target company's shares traded before merger talks became public.
In the meantime, the focus remains squarely on ad sales at cable networks. For Time Warner, weaker ad sales is largely a product of ratings pressure at its entertainment channels, TNT and TBS. Despite millions of dollars in investment on new serials, ratings at TNT plunged 35% during June. TBS dropped a mere 2%.
As a result, Time Warner on Wednesday guided down expectations for third-quarter ad sales, forecasting a decline in the low single digits. Scripps, the owner of HGTV, DIY and Food Network, said on Monday that profit at its television networks will be "approximately flat for the year" rather than rise 3%, as the company had forecast earlier this year.
For the moment, AMC appears to be in a better spot, and for that the market is thankful.
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