By Sudarshan Varadhan and Lisa Richwine
AMC Networks has agreed to pay $200 million for a 49.9 percent stake in BBC America and would take operational control of the cable television channel.
BBC Worldwide will retain a 50.1 percent stake in BBC America, which is available on cable and satellite TV in 80 million U.S. homes and airs popular drama series such as "Doctor Who" and "Orphan Black."
AMC Networks (AMCX), home of "The Walking Dead," "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," will have operational control of BBC America, including affiliate and advertising sales. AMC will consolidate the results of the joint venture in its financial statements.
We were attracted together by what a potent force we could become as the home of smart TV and really top-end television.
"We were attracted together by what a potent force we could become as the home of smart TV and really top-end television," Tim Davie, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said in an interview Thursday.
BBC America will be managed as a stand-alone channel within the AMC Networks portfolio, and BBC Worldwide North America will continue as a wholly owned regional business within BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp.
The deal is expected to provide the networks with a stronger position in negotiations over the fees paid by cable and satellite TV distributors, which are in the midst of a wave of consolidation.
BBC America's programming also has proven appeal with online video viewers in the United States, said Josh Sapan, chief executive of AMC Networks, noting its success on platforms like Netflix, Amazon.com Inc and Hulu. The networks are considering their future digital strategy, he said.
"This is a long-term marriage," Sapan said. "Wherever the digital world goes, we will go together."
AMC will also handle U.S. distribution and advertising sales for BBC World News.
AMC and BBC have worked together in the past on productions like "Top of the Lake" and "The Honorable Woman."