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While you’re sitting down and enjoying a nice relaxing time watching your TV, know that there are always people behind the scenes who are way more interested in money and deals than your entertainment. (Not a cynical view in the slightest, right?) The latest network/cable operator battle is happening between AMC and the National Cable Television Cooperative, and if the two don’t come to some kind of an agreement almost immediately, around 4 million subscribers will be without AMC when 2016 rolls around later tonight. That’s scarier than the Walking Dead marathon that’s currently airing.
The fractured negotiation process between AMC and the NCTC has been going on for weeks, with both parties understanding that an impending blackout would be the result if a deal wasn’t set up. The blame here is being thrown at AMC and its execs, as the network is trying to secure more money for the next batch of carriage negotiations, riding on the success of ratings juggernaut The Walking Deadand other hits like Fear the Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, among others. Makes sense in one way, as AMC crushed this year in terms of audiences, but still gets a smaller piece of the financial pie than networks like FX and USA, both of which suffered major losses in viewership in 2015. Still, any demands for pay increases are going to be met with some stonewalling.
AMC’s secondary stipulation calls for rate increases and wider distribution for the other networks in the company’s umbrella, including IFC, SundanceTV and We TV, with BBC America thankfully outside of this current process. Unsurprisingly, NCTC is pushing back at this part of the negotiations as well, since the number of people leaving cable behind for broadband streaming is growing, and many customers are looking for scaled-back channel bundles that presumably wouldn’t require IFC and the rest. Don’t they love Comedy Bang! Bang! as much as we do?
Bob Ormberg, the VP of content and product management for Alaskan cable operator General Communication Inc., has already reached out to its subscriber base in blaming AMC for trying to increase their fees. GCI has its own focus on streaming, so it’s not surprising that Ormberg advised people to get their Walking Dead fix through Netflix and Walmart’s Vudu. Doesn’t help for new episodes, but the dust will probably have settled by the time those come around.
The 4 million in danger of losing the network is almost a silver lining, as NCTC represents around 850 cable operators that serve 12 million subscribers, according to Variety. So it could have been worse for a lot more people if it wasn’t just a smaller portion of the company’s coverage.
AMC, which has faced DirecTV over negotiations in the past, will be continuing its Walking Dead marathon for the next couple of days, followed by all six episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 1, with normal programming returning on January 3. Here’s hoping something gets resolved before then, and especially before Rick & Co. return for the rest of Season 6 in February.