GCI To Drop AMC, Univision

Alaskan cable operator GCI is throwing down the gauntlet against high programming rate increases, telling customers Monday that it will not renew carriage of AMC Networks and Univision because their proposed rate increases are too high.

AMC has been in a carriage dispute with the National Cable Television Cooperative over its carriage deal, with more than 70 members of the buying co-op telling customers that they may drop the channel. But that deal does not expire until Dec. 31, and there appears to be some chance that a deal could be done.

In a statement Dec. 28, GCI, which is the largest cable operator in Alaska, said beginning Jan. 1 it will no longer carry AMC Networks outlets AMC, WeTV, IFC and IFC Films (BBC America will still be available) adding that proposed 200% increase for all of the AMC Networks brands was too much to pass on to customers. It also will stop carrying Spanish language broadcaster Univision, for similar reasons.

GCI, which is a member of the NCTC, said it will add several new channels to its 2016 lineup, including One World SportsDiscovery Family and Outside Television.

GCI is encouraging customers to access AMC programming like The Walking Dead through the VUDU app on its TiVo boxes, as well as through a growing list of online services. Whether AMC will be able to block that access if there is no deal with the cable operator, was not clear.

UPDATE: Univision Communications Inc. told Multichannel News in a statement Tuesday that "UCI is committed to reaching a fair agreement with all of our distributors. Despite us making every effort over the last several months to reach a deal with General Communication, Inc. (GCI), we were surprised and disappointed to learn of their plans to no longer offer the Univision Network to their customers in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, Alaska. UCI's mission is to entertain, empower and inform our community, which is why we continue to invest in the technology and content to better serve our loyal audiences. Univision's news, entertainment and sports programming are a lifeline for our viewers and we will continue to work diligently to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with GCI."

GCI, through a spokesman, elaborated that "Univision’s expensive programming proposal would result in increased costs and just didn’t make sense for GCI customers. Luckily, our subscribers have more choices than ever about what they watch and how they watch it. GCI carries other Spanish-language options including Telemundo, more than 40 Spanish-language films on GCI on Demand, and 50+ channels with SAP Spanish feeds plus all the additional content available through GCI’s TiVo service, including Netflix, VUDU and YouTube."

AMC officials were not immediately available for comment.

“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,” GCI vice president of content and product management Bob Ormberg said in a statement. “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.” 

To encourage existing customers to explore new content available through apps such as VUDU and Netflix, GCI is offering its TiVo customers a $50 Visa gift card. Customers can request the gift card by calling 844-754-3711.