Disputes among television distributors and networks are nothing new, though the only time we hear about them seems to be when some major contract is in the middle of re-negotiation. Sometimes, however, things go too far and these negotiations spill into the realm of audience consequence that see whole channels or groups of channels get blacked out on certain carriers.
Back in 2012, one of the biggest blackouts to impact audiences was that of Dish Network’s removal of AMC for an extended period of time. While that dispute was eventually resolved, it seems another carrier may lose out on The Walking Dead in the near future.
During last night’s airing of the hit drama, AMC stepped in during a commercial break to alert DirecTV subscribers to the news that, according to them, current negotiations are not going well. As Deadline reports:
[DirecTV] has not engaged in meaningful negotiations with us, which leaves us to doubt whether a timely renewal is possible. In addition, DirecTV is in violation of our current agreement, and it has dropped AMC in Latin America. We hope to finalize a new agreement quickly but in the meantime, we think it is important to alert DirecTV customers who care about The Walking Dead that their ability to watch the show on DirecTV is at risk.
However, the satellite provider was quick to counter with a statement of their own:
[Customers] will not miss any of this year’s new season of The Walking Dead or any other shows. AMC is contractually obligated to provide all of its programming for several more months and we intend to renew our AMC partnership at a price that’s fair to our customers.
The Walking Dead is currently the biggest show on television, there’s no question of that fact – with overall ratings nearing 20 million viewers every week, and in-demo 18-49 ratings topping broadcast numbers not seen since 2009. Because of these numbers (in addition to being the current holder of the crown for “best TV series ever” thanks to the recently concluded Breaking Bad), AMC has grown powerful, and that power has allowed it to gain certain control over its contract negotiations.
While the current run of 2014 Walking Dead episodes aren’t at risk for viewers thanks to the existing deal not set to expire until the year’s end (after the first half of season five’s concluded), there’s currently no guarantee the series will return for the second half of the run come February if negotiations aren’t completed in time.
Normally, one would say not to concern yourselves with issues such as this since these types of ads are fear-mongering jumbles of nonsense meant to bully consumers into doing the job of lawyers. But given AMC’s history of battling with providers over their programming, it’s safe to say this one’s worth keeping an eye on because there’s one big difference between where AMC was in 2012 vs where the network is at now.
In 2012, AMC didn’t hold the title of “home to the nation’s most watched non-sports television program.” No matter how many ways DirecTV loses out in the deal, it’s hard to imagine they’ll offer much opposition to AMC at the negotiation table because losing AMC would mean losing America’s most watched series, and that would mean potentially losing a massive customer base.
Is there an argument to be made about AMC perhaps holding too much power in its current form? Probably. But unfortunately, now is not the time to make it because, especially in the age of cord-cutting, the last thing any provider wants to do is give customers an excuse to leave.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Source: Deadline Hollywood