BET founder Bob Johnson and his entertainment content distribution company RLJ Entertainment have formed a strategic partnership with AMC Networks. The partnership reportedly will build on each company’s long track record of successfully developing high-quality content for targeted audiences and capitalizing on new technology to meet the demands of changing viewing habits. RLJ Entertainment owns and operates Acorn TV and UMC (Urban Movie Channel). AMC Networks is the company behind shows on AMC as well as other channels such as WE tv, Sundance, BBC, and IFC.
As part of the agreement, AMC Networks is investing $65 million to accelerate the distribution and development of diverse content and independent films from RLJ Entertainment across multiple platforms, including its direct-to-consumer streaming video-on-demand channel.
Developing Urban Content And British Television
By aligning with AMC Networks’ channels and film business, Acorn TV and UMC will have the potential to cross-promote, develop, and distribute content reaching more viewers of high-quality British television dramas, urban content, and independent film. UMC is a subscription streaming service targeting African American and urban viewers. Through Acorn Media Enterprises, its UK development arm, RLJ Entertainment owns all rights to the hit UK mystery series Foyle’s War and 64% of Agatha Christie Limited, which manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to mystery fiction including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot.
According to a press release, as part of the agreement, AMC Networks has invested $65 million in the form of loans to RLJ Entertainment to refinance the company’s existing senior credit facility, add working capital, reduce the cost of capital through lower interest rates, and provide revised covenants that will allow for increased operational flexibility.
Forming Powerful Synergies
Commenting in the press release on the new partnership and investment, Johnson stated, “Josh Sapan (president and CEO of AMC Networks), who I am proud to call a friend and whom I’ve known for more than 20 years, is a visionary CEO and an absolute advocate for producing and delivering to audiences of all interests the best in quality and award-winning entertainment. As founder of RLJ Entertainment, I look forward to the future of this new chapter in our business and entering into a relationship with one of the most dynamic and creative content companies in the entertainment industry.”
Sapan stated that he had deep respect for Johnson and the many businesses he’s built over the years—from BET to Acorn TV and UMC. “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,” he added.