AMC Networks shares are up 2.7% in mid-afternoon trading, and Dish Network is down nearly 1%, after New York Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe III ruled that Dish”s only remaining damages expert can’t testify in AMC’s breach of contract suit involving the now-defunct VOOM networks. Dish wanted Timothy Brooks — a former research exec for Lifetime and USA Networks — to take the stand and refute the plaintiffs’ claim that they’re entitled to more than $2.4B following Dish’s 2008 decision to drop the VOOM suite of HD channels. But Lowe says that Brooks is not qualified to rebut the plaintiff’s expert, Susquehanna Financial Group’s Thomas Claps says. Since Brooks is not an economist, he doesn’t have the expertise needed to challenge the assumptions and models from the expert for AMC and its former parent, Cablevision: consulting firm Compass Lexecon’s Senior Managing Director Jonathan Orszag (who also happens to be the brother of the Obama administration’s former Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag). Lowe now has disqualified all three of the damages witnesses Dish wanted to call. Claps says this is “another significant blow to Dish” following a series of run-ins with Lowe, who found that satellite company improperly destroyed evidence, and hid emails that supported the plaintiffs’ case.
The trial will determine whether Dish had the right in 2008 to terminate its 15-year deal to air the VOOM Networks suite of HD channels. The channels, formerly owned by Cablevision, were packaged with AMC when the cable company spun off the network operation last year. Dish dropped AMC’s channels in June but several analysts say that they expect the companies to negotiate a settlement that would return them to the satellite provider’s 14.1M subscribers.