AMC, NCTC Reach Agreement

Despite weeks of what were sometimes contentious negotiations and threats that it would drop its suite of channels, AMC Networks said it has reached a multi-year carriage agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative, avoiding a blackout of the organization’s more than 700 member cable operators.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AMC said the NCTC deal includes all six of its networks – AMC, IFC, WeTV, Sundance, BBC America and BBC World News. But sources familiar with the negotiations said AMC and NCTC were able to smooth out their two biggest hurdles to an agreement.

According to those sources, AMC has recognized that a large number of NCTC members have system capacity constraints, and the new deal does not require that all members carry all six channels on their most popular tier. In addition, the parties agreed to an affiliate fee increase that is significantly less than what had initially been proposed -- in some cases by as much as 400%.

“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.”

The AMC deal was the biggest dispute in what has been relatively quiet end-of-year carriage negotiation period. At one point, NCTC members warned that AMC could lose access to their nearly 4 million subscribers across the country.

As the Dec. 31 deadline neared, Alaskan cable operator GCI said it would drop the AMC networks, amid other channel changes, on Jan. 1 (GCI said Monday it followed through on the drops). In an interview, NCTC president and CEO Rich Fickle said while some members had opted to drop the AMC channels after the Dec. 31 deadline passed -- AMC did not pull its signal at any time during the negotiations -- he believed that most of the membership will accept the agreement.

"I think we reached a great creative compromise," Fickle said.

“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.”