As carriage disputes go, Dish Networks’ battle with AMC Networks is shaping up to be particularly nasty. Just how disruptive would it be to have a programmer of Emmy-winning hits cast off the No. 3 pay TV service provider?


OK, so who’s geeked up for the upcoming fifth and final season premiere of AMC’s Breaking Bad?

Lets just put it this way: In Englewood, Colo., where Dish Network is headquartered, nobody seems to be circling July 15 on their calendar.

On Sunday night, Dish banished AMC Networks’ channels to the far-flung reaches of its spectrum, downgrading flagship outlet AMC from channel number 130 to the barely-ever-visited 9,609.

Also read: Dish’s Ergen: Streaming on Netflix “devalues” Mad Men

It’s the latest — but perhaps most violent  — volley in a dispute that could end with AMC channels actually being pulled off Dish when the current carriage agreement expires June 30.

With the dispute between the pay TV service and AMC looking nastier and more complicated than the average carriage impasse, it might time to wonder: What would happen if AMC, a leading-edge programmer of zeitgeist-shifting, Emmy-winning hits — and a media company that’s proven to be very comfortable providing its content to over-the-top channels — were to suddenly be cast off the nation’s No. 3 pay TV service, which has 14 million subscribers? Would it become even more aggressive in the way it licenses its shows for transactional and subscription VOD?

And what would happen if Dish were to actually make good on threats to draw the line on spiraling programming costs by refusing to grant a carriage fee increase to a rather prominent programmer? What kind of subscriber hit will it take? If the loss isn’t too great, will it embolden other multi-channel service providers to take similar stands?

It seems we could be on the cusp of answering a few of these questions.

Dish’s rather incendiary decision to downgrade the channels came after AMC ran brief onscreen promos Sunday night during presentations of its hit series Mad Men, calling Dish subscribers to action by visiting keepamcnetworks.com. Once there, they’re not only given a phone number so they can call Dish to voice their concerns directly, but visitors can also punch in their zip code to learn about alternative pay TV service providers in their area.

Of course, AMC didn’t invent this part of the playbook — Fox Networks employed the same strategy with its FX channel last year, with series producers including profane Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter appearing in interstitials that urged fans of the show to harang DirecTV.

So far, Vince Gilligan, creator of AMC’s crystal-meth-themed hit Breaking Bad, and Matt Weiner, mastermind of its 1960s Madison Avenue  period drama Mad Men, haven’t taped any PSAs of their own.

With Dish Network playing hardball in a way DirecTV never did — FX never came close to be cast off into the quadruple digits, after all  — who knows if Gilligan or Weiner could even help at this point?

Dish’s carriage accounts for around 15 percent of AMC’s base of nearly 96 million homes. And AMC is trying to triple carriage fees that average around 25 cents per subscriber.

With a flurry of new regional sports networks to pay for, Dish has openly said it isn’t too excited about shelling out more for AMC programs that cater to an upscale urban audience for a subscriber base that it says is predominantly rural.

For its part, AMC continues to insist the dispute is less about money than litigation over an unrelated matter — a five-year-old case involving now-defunct HD programming service Voom Networks. That service was owned by AMC’s previous corporate iteration, Rainbow Media, and Dish pulled it off its grid in 2008 claiming it wasn’t drawing enough viewers.

AMC’s $2.5 billion breach-of-contract complaint over the matter is set to go to trial in September, an outcome Dish would like to avoid.

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  1. AMC was moved to 9609 and AMC HD to 9610

  2. If you don’t keep AMC ifc we tv I am going to DirecTV

  3. come on dish we pay good money for your service which INCLUDES AMC.. Bury the hatchet man, I just upgraded to the 200 package so I would have AMC now you are dicking around like this….This is wrong and I will opt out of my contract.. m.hudgeons@yahoo.com

  4. amc was a good channel when they showed movies now they play man men and all the other trash shows over an over. what does amc stand for moveies not the trash they show now

  5. I’m not waiting for June 30th. Customers have to draw a line too. We are being dumped on by Corporate America’s GREED again. I am not a demostrator of any kind but this is where I draw my line. DISH is great for delivery and I already have had to put up with not having two of my area’s top sports networks because of a fight they had with YES and MSG. ENOUGH is ENOUGH. F******* lawyers are in their courts and companies get rich while I pay 112 dollars a month for crap on TV. The channels they’re taking happen to be 3 of the only 7 I watch, EVERYONE, FIGHT BACK – BOYCOTT, CANCEL YOUR CABLE FOR 3 MONTHS AND WATCH HOW THESE FAT CATS CAVE IN TO US ! THEY HAVE NO MORAL FIBER ANYWAY. FIGHT AND WIN. TAKE BACK AMERICA !

  6. Keep AMC!!! Great shows that will be missed. Don’t dump it!

  7. Dish better keep Amc. I pay good money for my satellite and will be damned if I lose one of my favorite channels. I will certainly go to another provider and will probably save money. For dish network sake I hope they get their crap worked out

  8. Freda Musgrave Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    I am outraged that Dish is even considering dropping AMC! AMC produces some of the best original programming available. If Dish follows through on this threat there will be a mass exodus of their customers. They need to listen and respond to their customers’ wishes.

  9. Well they are raising the cost to Dish so I guess Dish can just pass it along to us.

    1. And I’m sure they will. After it’s all over and done with you can bet our dish bill will be higher.

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