AMC Networks Inc. (AMCX:US), owner of the U.S. cable-TV channel that broadcasts “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” agreed to buy Liberty Global Plc (LBTYA:US)’s Chellomedia international unit for 750 million euros ($1.04 billion).
The purchase brings TV channels in 138 countries to AMC, broadening the reach of its shows, according to a statement today from the New York-based company. The new channels will expand the company’s AMC/Sundance Channel Global international programming business.
The Chellomedia channels reach more than 390 million households, helping AMC widen the distribution of original programs such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” beyond U.S. audiences. Liberty Global, billionaire John Malone’s London-based cable carrier, is selling Chellomedia as it focuses on acquiring rivals in Europe and building out network capacity.
The assets sold include the Chello brands, as well as the unit’s stakes in joint ventures with partners such as CBS International, according to a Liberty Global statement. The company will retain its Film1 and Sport1 channels in the Netherlands.
“For Liberty Global, this transaction is attractive from both a valuation and liquidity perspective,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries said in the statement. “It also simplifies our business and allows us to focus on our core markets and more strategic programming opportunities.”
Liberty Global -- which has spent about $40 billion buying European assets in the past six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg -- acquired the U.K.’s Virgin Media Inc. for about $16 billion this year. This month, Dutch cable-TV operator Ziggo NV (ZIGGO) turned down a takeover proposal by the company, saying the offer was inadequate.
Liberty Global also has been seen as a takeover target itself. Vodafone Group Plc, the British phone giant, is selling its stake in a U.S. wireless joint venture to Verizon Communications Inc. for about $130 billion, giving it cash to potentially make acquisitions. Malone has said that while he would consider bids for Liberty Global, he’s “happy” with the company as it is.
AMC’s purchase of Chellomedia is expected to close in the first quarter 2014, the companies said.
Shares of AMC were little changed (AMCX:US) today in New York, closing at $69.90. Liberty Global rose 1.2 percent to $81.12.
AMC has tried to stand out from rivals on the cable dial with original programming. The effort helped boost revenue by 16 percent in the second quarter, and AMC’s networks were nominated this year for 39 Emmy awards. That was the most of any basic-cable programming group, the company said in August.
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