AMC Networks, Suddenlink in License Fee Dispute

With differences over license fees, Suddenlink Communications subscribers could lose access to AMC Networks programming later this week.
AMC's contract with Suddenlink expires at midnight on March 14, which may result in the MSO's customers losing the signals to AMC, IFC, Sundance and We TV. The programmer on March 9 began using social media and running a crawl on its networks informing the cable company's customers about the potential disconnect.
As per usual in such disputes, the value of license fees is at the center of the potential disconnect. Although AMC's specific pricing requests were undisclosed, Suddenlink via a message atop the home page of its website indicates the programmer is seeking a 50% bump from last year and a 100% increase over the term of the proposed deal.
Suddenlink carries AMC on expanded basic, while IFC, Sundance, and We TV are available on many of its systems' digital tiers.

AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference last September, said AMC -- which has evolved from a purveyor of theatricals to the home of Emmy-winning original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, as well as popular zombie show, The Walking Dead -- was deserving of a monthly subscriber rate of 75 cents.

On Sunday, AMC Networks issued the following statement: "We are trying to reach a fair agreement with Suddenlink that will keep AMC's The Walking Dead and the upcoming seasons of Mad Men and The Killing available to Suddenlink customers. Unfortunately, Suddenlink's proposal does not adequately acknowledge AMC's position as a top tier network, with some of the most popular shows on television, including The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

We've had a terrific relationship with Suddenlink for many years and are proud of the value we've created for them with our slate of acclaimed original series. We're hopeful that we'll reach an agreement with Suddenlink that recognizes the popularity of our programming with consumers, but we believe that we owe it to our loyal viewers to inform them of the potential loss of AMC, as well as IFC, Sundance Channel and We TV."
For its part, Suddenlink's message reads thusly: "The owners of AMC Network want a near 50% increase over what they were paid last year, and a greater than 100% increase in annual payments by the end of their new proposed contract. Those demands are outrageous and unfair to Suddenlink customers. New York City-based AMC Networks claims it needs these increases to please Wall Street expectations. These demands are outrageous anytime, let alone in this economy, and are unfair to Suddenlink customers.
We have asked AMC Networks to reconsider, but so far, they have refused, and have threatened to withdraw permission to carry their channels if we do not meet their demands. We will continue negotiating with them, in an effort to keep these channels at a reasonable price, and are willing to continue carrying AMC Networks while we negotiate."
It also directed subscribers to contact AMC Networks via phone and ask the programmer to be "reasonable" in its demands. It also includes an email address for Sapan and a number of other top officials.

Both parties declined requests for further comment.

Should there be a service disruption that lasts into next weekend, Suddenlink subscribers could miss the second-season finale of The Walking Dead, which has delivered some of cable's largest deliveries of the advertiser-coveted persons 18-to-49 demographic. The following week, AMC will premiere the two-hour, fifth-season premiere of Mad Men.