Small Cable Operators Reach Deal with AMC Networks

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By Tim McElgunn

Jan. 5 —After missing a Dec. 31 deadline to negotiate an impasse that could have seen AMC Network's channel lineup go dark for about 4 million subscribers served by the more than 700 members of the National Cable Television Cooperative, AMC said on Jan. 4 that the two sides have reached a carriage agreement.

“We are pleased to have reached a new distribution agreement with NCTC,” said AMC Networks' Bob Broussard, president of network sales, in a statement. “We have enjoyed a long and successful partnership with NCTC and we look forward to continuing to provide our popular and acclaimed programming to NCTC members and their customers.”

AMC said in its announcement that it has agreed to a multi-year carriage deal with NCTC that will allow the association's members to continue delivering all six AMC networks: AMC, IFC, WeTV, Sundance, BBC America and BBC World News.

A significant increase in license fees and a requirement that those fees be calculated using NCTC members' total subscriber count — including those not receiving the channels — were among the most contentious issues separating the two sides.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, changes in the fee increase – NCTC has said AMC's proposal called for a jump of as much as 400 percent – and carriage requirements were apparently satisfactory to most of the association's members.

“We appreciate AMC Networks' willingness to take the time to understand our members' unique challenges and concerns, and their creativity to construct an agreement that addresses the concerns of many of our members,” said NCTC executive vice president of programming Judy Meyka in a statement. “AMC Networks has made a significant investment in the programming on their networks and we are pleased that our members have the option to continue offering this programming to their customers.”

Not all Members Agree

Alaskan cable operator –and NCTC member —General Communication, Inc. dropped AMC's stations Dec. 31 and does not plan to reverse that decision in wake of the deal.

In a Dec. 28 press release, GCI Vice President of Content and Product Management Bob Ormberg said, “We know Alaska ‘Walking Dead’ fans will be disappointed that AMC's sky-high rates prevent GCI from carrying the show on our traditional TV lineup. The good news is that our customers have more viewing choices than ever before and GCI has made sure that fans can watch ‘The Walking Dead’ by other methods with GCI so they won't miss an episode when season 6 resumes in February.”

Those methods include offering a $50 gift certificate to subscribers with Internet-connected TiVo set top boxes to encourage them to “explore the thousands of hours of new content available through apps such as VUDU and Netflix,” he said.

According to GCI's Fair Use Policy, however, “Activities that involve extensive high-volume and continuous data transfer might cause your activity to exceed the expected monthly amount. Examples of these activities may include (but are not limited to) extensive use of streaming video and peer-to-peer file sharing programs, or an unsecured wireless signal.” GCI offers high-speed data plans with usage caps that range from 40 to 100 gigabytes (GB) per month. Users exceeding those usage limits in a given month will see an additional fee on their bills.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com