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Summary:

Are unhappy Dish subscribers turning to iTunes, where Breaking Bad is the No. 1 TV download? Indeed, Dish has dropped a major channel with an Emmy-winning hit, and it’s gotten away with it. Why the pay TV business may never be the same.

Breaking Bad New

Can a major pay TV service really just drop a somewhat major channel that’s currently running a widely anticipated, Emmy-winning series and get away with it?

Nearly four weeks after blacking out AMC Networks channels — and popular adult drama Breaking Bad along with them– Dish Network has seemingly done just that. And this could have broad implications in the pay TV business, where programmers have typically held most of the leverage when negotiating new affiliate agreements.

Asked Friday if a revolt among Dish’s 14 million subscribers has inspired the company to work with AMC on a new affiliate agreement and restore its channels, a spokesman for the satellite company said there was no update to the impasse.

Also read: Why Breaking Bad doesn’t scare Dish, but Walking Dead will

“Are you hearing anything,” he asked?

Strangely, I had to respond, “No.”

If the on-air and online campaign launched by AMC to steer Dish subscribers to other pay TV services is gaining traction, AMC sure isn’t beating its chest about it. An AMC representative on Friday told us grassroots subscriber revolts take time to gestate.

I also made an inquiry into the Dish sales department. A Dish rep told me there’s no timeline for AMC, WE TV and IFC returning to the service’s channel lineup any time soon. “Those channels are gone,” he told me.

Contrast that with the DirecTV/Viacom licensing dispute earlier this month — even as the corporate rhetoric raged on both sides, DirecTV sales reps kept assuring customers that a deal to restore channels including Nickelodeon and MTV was “imminent.”

Meanwhile, a perusal of the sales charts for Apple’s iTunes store shows that the most popular TV download is the most recent episode of Breaking Bad, titled “Madrigal.” This could be seen as lending credence to Dish’s negotiating position all along — that it has no reason to increase the program licensing fee it pays AMC, because its subscribers have so many other ways to access AMC shows. (New Breaking Bad episodes are also available through Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix has seasons 1-4 of the show exclusively.)

The AMC rep we spoke, however, said the network’s shows are always highly ranked on iTunes when they’re in season.

As for AMC’s linear TV ratings — and by extension, its ad sales — losing access to Dish’s nearly 14 million homes has undoubtedly rendered a hit. Last Sunday, ratings for the “Madrigal” episode were down 21 percent from the prior week’s fifth-season-premiere, with only 2.3 million viewers tuning into the initial run of Breaking Bad.

PR-wise, there appears to be little pressure on Dish. Summarizing the dispute for its online and mobile audience on July 3, ABC News lauded Dish for not saddling its subscribers with increased program licensing costs, titling its story, “Why Dish dropping AMC might be good for consumers.”

Asked whether he thinks AMC channels will ever return to Dish, Bernstein Research senior analyst Craig Moffett backed up AMC’s assertion that this impasse all ties into an unrelated legal dispute pitting Dish against AMC and its former parent company,  Cablevision.

Also read: AMC – “Dish never even talked rates with us”

Set to go to trial in September, Dish finds itself short on leverage in the $2.5 billion dispute, which stems from its decision to drop now-defunct channel Voom HD in 2008.

When a settlement does occur, Moffett contends, the restoration of AMC’s channels will likely be part of the agreement.

In the meantime, Dish doesn’t appear to be breaking a sweat … and while no subscriber data is available beyond June 30, the day AMC channels were yanked, it appears to have found its leverage.

  1. There is revolt, but no one talks about it. I followed Breaking Bad from day one and dropped Dish as a result of the AMC/IFC channel droppage. I know two others personally who did the same.

    If you do not have the top rated package, Dish lets you go (you can google how many customer Dish can lose can actually gain profit with the deal), so it’s got nothing to do with the customer. That’s why I dropped dish. Twice in 30 months they took channels away and only increase fees. The state they didn’t increase package premiums, but fees have gone up almost 200% in the last 18 months, so an increase is still an increase.

    There is a revolt. Dish minimizes it, and the only real loser, as always, is the consumer.

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    1. Darth Sidious Saturday, July 28, 2012

      Well if AMC wouldn’t hike their rates to an unnegotiable amount, dish would probly keep them in the lineup, as the consumer I don’t want to pay more because of a network wanting to make millions more per year on a select few shows, dish only wants AMC anyways, not IFC or we, but AMC is forcing the sale of all three

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      1. Dish can’t keep our cost low if every network with a hit show keeps jacking up the prices. Dish is just an outlet for networks to sell ad time. AMC is charging Dish more for providing 14mill+ viewers, it makes no sense. The consumer already pays twice for TV shows, one with our provider and 2nd is with the commercials we watch. It is ultimately AMCs doing. How it should work is AMC pays Dish, and AMC charges advertisers more and TV is free for consumers (just like radio or broadcast TV).

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    2. Despite your anecdotal tale, in reality, there is no evidence of any customer revolt from Dish network. Perhaps this will happen at some future date, but there is little evidence to suggest that it has already occurred.

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      1. Bull, Just take a look at their facebook wall. There is not a positive comment on there since they dropped AMC!

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    3. I agree with the assessment. A lot of consumers, possibly the kind that AMC attracts, may not be ones to go on the road, but the churn numbers of Dish Network may yet tell a very different story. Even though Dish Network has a valid point of view; the exclusivity value of content does go down as it becomes exclusively available on multiple platforms and may not command premium at one platform. Anyways, this is still quite early to call and we will figure out the pros and cons of this decision (for both Dish and AMC) only in time (guess 3-6 months should be enough).

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  2. Joe C,

    I am not sure what you are talking about. I have had Dish for 5 years about and have not had an increase that I recall except when I upgraded packages.

    I side with Dish because the AMC show I watch I can watch anywhere. If it weren’t for that show, I’d never watch AMC and IFC sucked anyway.

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  3. I have Dish and am a loyal fan of AMC programming. All I did is buy a Season Pass on Amazon streaming and , problem solved!! Better picture quality and no commercials, only diff is I have to wait until Monday to watch it!

    AMC is the one losing out here.

    Dish revolt? Meh!

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    1. yeah, but you still had to buy the season pass…so that kinda blows, eh?

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    2. In theory, a possibility (though not better quality — Dish broadcasts in higher bitrates than Amazon). But here’s the problem: if I had access to decent cable or FiOS, for the internet connection needed, I wouldn’t have Dish in the first place. Where I live (rural South Jersey… not exactly Kansas or Iowa, though there is lots of corn) there’s no wired internet. I get 550MB per day on HugesNet, at 1.5Mb/s, before the Fair Access Policy kicks in. A single 45 minute HD stream at 3.5Mb/s is going to run 1.2GB, over twice my daily allotment, and way too fast for streaming to home anyway.

      For those with good internet connections, though, this does point to the future. With a faster network connection, I could realistically dump Dish or any other cable system and just call up what I want online, some paid, some free (legally speaking). Dish is one of those companies hastening that even… and this month, I’m looking into DirecTV as a replacement. Of course, they have their own channel disputes, but I’m gonna be needing my Zombies this fall.

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  4. I wanted to address this revolt it exists but it’s intelctualy dishonest. All pay t.v. Services have there own fees for services, equipment and extras like HBO sports packaging ect. What we are looking at is the consumers sense of entitlement. It’s a paid service you get what you pay for. Granted if your not happy with your service change but remember all providers go through the same thing weigh the value vs the bells and whistles if you never watch HBO then does it make sense to switch because you get it for free? If you only watch a network for one show does it make sense to cancel that service or find it somewhere else ? The point is if you don’t like what you getting change, but you pay for it make the smart choice not the one that might cost more down the road. Remember when the company has to pay more for the programming they provide, the customer will pay more as well.

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  5. Yes there is a revolt .Dropping AMC/IFC big mistake on their part. They have filled in programs with shopping channels. The comsumers are tired of being screwed

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    1. Believe me they haven’t added more shopping channels. I get sick of people talking about oh they took this away, and that now I’m getting taken advantage of. If you want to end up paying out the wah zoo for tv then go ahead and switch to something else. Last year directv said their fees increased 10% but only past along 4% to the customer. Tell me, how long can they continue to do that? Dish seems to be the only pay tv provider that stands up to the programmers and negotiates to keep prices lower. Yes they have raised an optional protection plan fee and starting with the 3rd room and their after each room is $7 but they still beat Directv on price and offer HD free for life. Ask anyone at directv if they can give that HD for free for life? Believe me I’ve been down this road. $10 a month savings on dish over directv. And another thing. If AMC is giving it to Amazon and others for basically nothing then why should dish pay anything for it? God knows they play enough commercials in one show to cover most cost.

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      1. When Dish dropped AMC why didnt my bill go down?

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  6. you should follow Dish’s page on Facebook – every time there is an update, the comments are flooded by angry subscribers. Perhaps the true test will come when Walking Dead returns.
    How does paid viewership of AMC programming on Amazon et al give Dish leverage? It just shows that many of us will pay for quality that Dish won’t provide – given enough time, we’ll leave Dish altogether.

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  7. The reason you don’t hear about the revolt is Dish Network subscribers are under contract. I cant spend $300 to drop them, but I would love too. AMC is one of my favorite networks so you better believe when my contract is up I am gone.

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    1. I’m in the same boat Tim. I’m under contract for another 19 months with Dish. I’ll get Direct tv when it’s up….

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      1. Me too, Dish sux. nothing but QVC and “Got Pee”, kardashians, the programming is horrible. I’m out as soon as my CONTRACT is up. Also fight monthy for newly added charges. Dish is the biggest rip off out there!

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        1. Same lame complaint programming programming is the same basic networks give or take a few your just yapping to yap

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  8. I complained and kept saying “Direct”. Dish sent me a free Royku player and cable, told me to watch BB on Amazon and cut my bill by 15.00 a month. Since Direct doesn’t offer the European channels that Dish does why change?
    paul johnson

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  9. I will drop Dish in October when my 2 year contract runs out.

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  10. think about this your already paying dish for AMC when they dropped the channel did your bill go down in July?
    So now your paying amazon for a season pass plus your still paying dish the same money,nice way to fix a problem. so here is the real winner dish they don’t pay AMC but all there customers still pay them.

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    1. Yes, I agree with Brian…I lost 3 great channels and got 2 crappy channels in place of them. If I want to watch AMC shows, I have to pay itunes or Amazon (or whomever) to watch them and I didn’t even get a PERMANENT decrease on my bill for the 3 channels I no longer get so in essence I am paying for them twice. Also, it sucks having to watch the shows the next day…it’s like watching the superbowl streamed. You don’t get to enjoy the new cool commercials that AMC plays during each episode nor can you tweet about anything or talk to anyone about the episode until the day after. Makes me feel ‘out of the loop’ so to speak. While I love Breaking Bad, I haven’t switched providers yet because I was waiting to see if the trial or settlement between Dish and VOOM somehow brings the channels back to Dish. Luckily, the trial starts in September (before Walking Dead premieres ) so hopefully we will know one way or the other if restoration of the channels will be part of the final legal agreement. One can hope!! :)

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      1. Soiled much

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    2. Your bill is still cheaper than what it would be on directv. With everything going up in price these days you would think some of you would appreciate dish for charging you less money. The BP gas station isn’t helping and neither is the grocery stores. They are the worst. I wish I had everyone’s money that is complaining about losing a second or third level tv channel. We are all going to need it to pay for the increase that ESPN is asking for. I heard it from someone who said it best,”ESPN is a national sports tax on Americans.”

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