Thought: Maybe AMC Networks (s AMCX) shouldn’t have waited until Dish Network (s DISH) actually pulled its channels off its service to take this punch.
But punch the cable programmer did just after midnight Eastern time, releasing a statement that doesn’t beat around the bush. The upshot: AMC Networks claims Dish’s decision to end carriage of AMC, IFC and WE TV has little to do with proposed carriage-rate increases and everything to do with an ongoing $2.5 billion breach-of-contract suit currently standing between the two companies.
“Dish customers have lost some of their favorite shows because of an unrelated lawsuit which has nothing at all to do with our programming,” the AMC statement reads. “Dish customers will not be able to watch the new season of AMC’s Breaking Bad, premiering July 15, or upcoming seasons of The Walking Dead, Mad Men, or any of our other popular shows. We urge Dish customers who want to have access to our programming to call 1-855-KEEP-AMC or visit www.keepamc.com.”
In the same statement, AMC indicated that carriage talks continue with AT&T over carriage on U-Verse. Like Dish, the current agreement expires at midnight. But unlike Dish, there’s no indication that there’s any impasse beyond fee increases. And so far, there hasn’t been any U-Verse blackout of AMC.
Dish’s removal of AMC channels deprives the programmer of 14 million satellite homes — and the income from licensing fees that comes with them.
Dish, in its own statement Friday, said that AMC’s flagship channel doesn’t carry enough ratings weight with its subscribers to justify also paying for IFC and WE TV. (I don’t know about that. Mad Men is known to draw an elite but numerically finite audience. But as an AMC spokesperson reminded me Thursday, the season premiere of The Walking Dead set a basic cable ratings record in October with 11 million watchers.)
Dish also claims AMC has “devalued” its shows by letting them be streamed on over-the-top services like Netflix.
Another thought: Fox Networks also lets FX hits like Sons of Anarchy stream on Netflix. But 15 months ago, not only was it able to carve out its own carriage agreement for FX and various regional sports channels with Dish, it got the satellite service to also carry the lightly viewed National Geographic Channel.
Then again, News Corp. (s NEWS) wasn’t suing Englewood, Colo. satellite company at the time.
Update: AT&T U-Verse and AMC announced a long-term deal Sunday, providing another option for some Dish customers who may choose to bolt over the program loss.