This weekend could begin a tough stretch for AMC Networks — and for Dish Network customers who enjoy shows such as Breaking Bad. AMC, IFC, and WE will no longer be available to Dish’s 14.1M customers beginning tomorrow night at 11:59 PM ET when the companies’ carriage contract expires. They aren’t talking, so odds are virtually nil that there’ll be a last-minute settlement. And Dish this morning continued its attack on the independent programmer, saying that it will replace AMC’s channels with what it calls “stronger movie and entertainment content.” Dish will offer HDNet Movies on Channel 130, Style on Channel 128, and HDNet (which is evolving into an entertainment and music channel called AXS.TV) on Channel 131.
AMC says Dish is using its customers as pawns to pressure the cable networks company to drop a $2.5B breach of contract suit involving the VOOM suite of HD channels. But Dish says it’s sticking up for subscribers by resisting a big price hike for the company behind shows including Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and The Killing. “AMC Networks requires us to carry low-rated channels like IFC and WE to access a few popular AMC shows,” says Dish SVP Programming Dave Shull. “The math is simple: it’s not a good value for our customers.” Dish adds that AMC “has further devalued its programming by making its handful of popular shows available to consumers via iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.com.” The company notes that AMC also faces turbulence from AT&T U-verse, which said this week that it also might yank the networks this weekend. AT&T says that AMC wants it to “pay nearly double what we believe other competitors pay — including a smaller-sized competitor.” AMC responded that it deserves compensation that “reflects the popularity of our programming.” There’s some hope of a settlement here; the companies are still talking. AMC shares have lost about 18% of their value since early May when Dish said it planned to drop the company’s channels.