negotiationUpdated Jan 6

The National Cable Television Cooperative and AMC Networks said today that they have reached a new agreement that will put AMCN channels in at least some small video providers’ lineups. NCTC handles content negotiations on behalf of its small video provider members, who individually choose whether or not to finalize an agreement. A previous agreement between NCTC and AMCN expired at the end of 2015.

NCTC/ AMC Agreement
Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, but in today’s announcement, NCTC Executive Vice President of Programming Judy Meyka said she appreciated AMCN’s 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.”

Negotiations with AMCN became contentious late last month when several video providers protested AMCN’s demand for the providers to carry less popular channels such as WE tv and IFC in order to obtain AMCN’s flagship AMC channel, whose content includes the highly popular television show “The Walking Dead.” AMCN’s demand for large price increases also played a role in the dispute, which drove some video providers to warn customers that they might drop AMCN content from their lineups.

At least one video provider that had threatened to drop AMCN said today that it now plans to carry AMCN content. “There was no disruption of service and TDS will continue to carry the channels,” said a TDS spokesperson in an email to Telecompetitor.

Not every small video provider is making the same decision, however.

Alaskan broadband and video provider General Communication Inc. (GCI) on December 28 said it would no longer include programming from AMC Networks (AMCN) or Univision Communications in its channel lineup. GCI said it was due to renew its contract with AMCN but opted not to do so because AMC was asking for an “almost 200% cost increase for all the network’s channels as a condition for carrying AMC.” The decision about Univision also was triggered by high programming costs, GCI said.

Some other video providers also may be emboldened to drop AMCN now that the rise of over-the-top video provides alternate means of viewing popular content such as “The Walking Dead.” GCI Vice President of Content and Product Management Bob Ormberg noted in a press release announcing the company’s plans to drop AMCN that “customers have more viewing choices than ever before and GCI has made sure that fans can watch ‘The Walking Dead’ by other methods so they won’t miss an episode when season 6 resumes in February.”

In an effort to make its decision about AMCN more palatable for customers, GCI is offering TiVo customers a $50 gift card to “encourage customers to explore the thousands of hours of new content available through apps such as VUDU and Netflix.”

That could be $50 well spent if it helps keep customers from dropping GCI’s video offering or drives increased demand for bandwidth upgrades to accommodate heavier OTT streaming. Any other video providers considering dropping AMCN may want to consider a similar move.

Update: Telecompetitor received this update from Wave Broadband, which also had warned customers that the company might drop AMCN channels:

As you’ve reported, NCTC and AMC came to terms on an agreement yesterday. Wave is in-process of reviewing the terms to ensure that they’re in-line with Wave’s corporate objective of getting our subscribers access to content at the best value possible. We negotiate on our customer’s behalf with cable programming content owners like AMC to achieve that.
At Wave, our goal is to provide our customers with the fastest internet experience, and provide them with choice and control over their video entertainment. To that end, Wave offers our customers the ability to stream video content over the internet through services like Netflix and Hulu, and to subscribe to Expanded Cable Channels like ESPN, Discovery Channel, and AMC. For the past several years, we have offered the subscription to Expanded content at our direct cost that is charged by the cable programming content owners, with no markup.
When AMC first approached us with their proposed rate and term changes for a new contract (to take effect 1/1/2016), we were surprised at the fee increase AMC was expecting our customers to pay. We decided it was in our customers’ best interest to pool our negotiating leverage with hundreds of other operators around the country and worked with the National Cable Television Cooperative (“NCTC”) to negotiate with AMC.

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5 thoughts on “NCTC/ AMC Agreement Reached, But Not All Small Cablecos Are On Board

    1. That's what people have been saying for years, but all it takes is one good "water cooler" series like Mad Men to make people rage at their cable company if they don't carry AMC. If the cable bows to consumer pressure, AMC holds all the cards and makes the operator carry 6 other channels the NO ONE will ever watch, on certain channel positions that AMC dictates. It is maddening for the local cable operator because they know what AMC charges and how much they want to raise rates because of Mad Men's success. Non-disclosure clauses in programming contracts mean the company can't fully explain their reasons for not carrying AMC because of cost issues, which further exacerbates the problem. The best option is to just drop all video services and leave it to DirecTV and Dish to deal with the programmers and stick to providing a VERY large and fast internet service pipe. Then customers can watch Mad Man or whatever else they want via Roku, Apple TV, or wherever as long as they log in via their DirecTV or Dish account. This gets the little cable guy completely out of all the programmer restrictions and requirements. It works.

  1. Perhaps this is the first battle test that gives real cause to better understand the channels customers really want! Spend the energy working real deals with the sources that are device driven and dependent on the local networks for rapid delivery Internet. And make sure your customers really understand who is behind this disruptive nature. Talk more to customers.

  2. Small independents – you have more power than you realize. Collectively stand up to these programmers and drop their channels! Show the industry it can be done and their content is not as valuable as they think it is and have been allowed to charge for. Your customers won't blink. Drop these channels!

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