AMC’s CFO on trying to predict the future of entertainment

Good morning,

AMC certainly couldn’t have forecasted this.

As productions ground to a halt, and theaters around the world shuttered last March, the entertainment giant was forced to pivot—fast.

“When you think about COVID and what it did to our worlds in the financial space, it wasn’t really about ‘How am I going to do against the budget?’ because this time last year your budget was very different; it didn’t predict COVID,” said Christina Spade, the executive vice president and CFO at AMC Networks.

Spade was appointed CFO at AMC in January. She was previously the executive vice president and CFO at ViacomCBS, and also had CFO roles at CBS Corporation and Showtime Networks, where Spade spent more than two decades. 

During the past year, the company has leaned into its streaming platform much faster than it could have imagined pre-pandemic. Spade said that by mid-2020 the company surpassed its streaming projections for all of 2021. “It’s important to be nimble,” she said during Tuesday’s virtual CFO Collaborative event which was put on by Fortune and Workday.

I always like to say, whenever you’re done with the budget, when you put the pencil down, it’s already wrong,” she said. “Because so much has changed. The budget gives you a set of guidelines to work with that you’ve thought through strategically, but it’s not something that you follow like a Bible.”

The “power of the forecasting” occurs when a collaborative group across the company assesses “how you’re doing in real time against the budget, what new measures you’re seeing that you didn’t anticipate in the budget, and how to adjust accordingly,” Spade explained. 

“You can’t really forecast and say we’re going to be at x in 12 months,” she said. “You can have goals and a vision for it, but it’s all about the execution.”

Though there’s still one code Spade has yet to crack: “We’d love for data to be able to predict all the hit programming out there before we invest in it,” she said. “But unfortunately, we have not cracked the code for that yet.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

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