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Monday, June 11, 2012

AMC-Dish dispute heats up

A fight between satellite broadcaster Dish and AMC Network made watching "The Killing" a challenge for subscribers. Above, a scene from TV series. (AMC / June 4, 2012)

By Joe Flint

June 4, 2012, 3:59 p.m.

The fight between satellite broadcaster Dish Network and AMC Networks -- parent of cable channels AMC, Sundance and WE -- took a nasty turn on Sunday night.

AMC landed the first blow when it ran a spot in its critically acclaimed drama "Mad Men" alerting viewers that Dish was planning to drop the channel at the end of the month. AMC suggested its viewers call Dish to complain. It also gave the address to a website where people could email Dish as well as learn what AMC said was the "real reason" Dish is dropping AMC-owned channels. AMC Networks had previously said that Dish was dropping the channels because of an unrelated legal dispute the two companies are involved in. Dish has said its decision is solely based on ratings.

Dish didn't wait long before retaliating. Less than two hours after AMC's "Mad Men" notice ran, Dish relocated AMC from Channel 130 to Channel 9069 -- without warning its subscribers of its plans. People watching AMC's "The Killing" saw their screens go black. When the picture returned, AMC had been replaced by Mark Cuban's HD Net, which was showing a Nickelback concert.

Frustrated viewers had to call Dish to find out where AMC had been moved to. Some of Dish's operators did not even know themselves that the channel had been relocated or where it had gone. (Typically, when a distributor is going to move a channel, subscribers are given notice several days if not weeks in advance.) AMC's other channels were also moved to the 9000 block.

In a statement, AMC Networks said, "It is unfortunate that, in retaliation for an unrelated lawsuit, DISH is punishing its customers by threatening to drop the AMC Networks, and with this sudden, dramatic change in channel position, making it extremely difficult for their customers to find and watch some of the most popular and acclaimed shows on television."

AMC said Dish has already dropped the Sundance Channel from its systems. Ironically, the cover of the June programming guide Dish sends to subscribers features a teaser promoting an article about a new Sundance series called "Push Girls," about women who have not let paralysis stand in the way of living a full life.

A Dish spokesman said the channels were moved to a location better suited to their ratings performance.


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