AMC Reaches Renewal with Canadian Cable Provider

AMC, the network once known for showing classic movies but now the home of popular cable TV dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, has reached an agreement with Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest cable TV provider. Under the new deal, AMC, which has been available to Rogers customers in standard definition, will now be available in HD and On Demand.

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The multiyear agreement was announced on Friday evening, after the parties’ contract expired on Feb. 28. There was no disruption in service, according to an AMC spokeswoman.

The pact ensures subscribers to the MSO’s VIP package can view AMC programming, including zombie hit The Walking Dead, Emmy-winner Mad Men and the final campaign of Breaking Bad, on digital cable, Rogers On Demand and Rogers Anyplace TV On Demand. That TV Everywhere service delivers live and on-demand content including, primetime shows, film rentals, live sports, news, and kids programming, to Canadians across computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox 360 gaming systems.  Rogers was Canada’s first cable to offer Web-based entertainment content streaming with RogersAnyplaceTV.com, which is also tied to customers’ cable subscriptions.

“We are pleased to have renewed an agreement with AMC that ensures our customers can continue to enjoy all the premium programming in the AMC lineup. We’re always focused on delivering the best content across all screens while keeping prices down,” said David Purdy, senior vice president, content, Rogers Communications, in a statement. “As a result, starting this March our customers can watch their favourite zombies, meth cooks and sixties-era ad executives in HD, and on demand across multiple platforms – something we know our customers want.”

Noted AMC president of distribution Bob Broussard: “We are very pleased to have reached a new long-term agreement with Rogers for AMC that recognizes the value and popularity of AMC and its award-winning shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, the number one drama series on cable television. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Rogers and continuing to serve their customers with AMC’s high-quality programming.”

The HD version of AMC is scheduled to launch on Rogers’ systems before the third-season finale of The Walking Dead later this month.

AMC is available in the United States on cable providers and satellite. With DIRECTV AMC airs on channel HD 254.

Sundance Channel to Carry Cable TV Rights for ‘Breaking Bad’ Off-Network

AMC’s Breaking Bad has a very loyal cult audience, and that audience has grown each season it has aired due to popularity on DVD and on streaming sites like Netflix. They are hoping to grow that audience even more with its final season by giving off-network rights to sister network the Sundance Channel, which will air back-to-back episodes from the first four seasons of the show on Monday nights beginning March 4.

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The series will follow premiere episodes of Sundance Channel original series The Staircase: Last Chance which airs on March 4th and 11th; Top of the Lake which runs from March 18th to April 15th and Rectify which airs April 22nd through May 27th.

“Breaking Bad has become a benchmark for storytelling at its finest and we are proud to air this series as we embark on our own scripted programming with the upcoming debut of Rectify, which is produced by the same incredible team behind Breaking Bad,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel’s General Manager and Executive Vice President in a statement.  “We are looking forward to giving viewers another opportunity to catch up with what has been called TV’s best drama.”

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad will air beginning sometime this summer, with longtime fans clamoring for new episodes after a cliffhanger ending that has kept them waiting for nearly a year by the time the next episodes air. Those who have not seen the show up to this point will be able to get caught up on Sundance Channel, which is good news, and with the DVDs for Season Five, which will be released shortly before the new season airs.

So get started this Monday. The Sundance Channel airs on 558 on DIRECTV.

AMC and DISH Network Come to an Agreement

According to reports from Sunday, satellite TV provider DISH Network has settled a lawsuit with AMC Networks and its sister company, Cablevision Systems Corp. over a now defunct programming service. DISH Network will pay $700 million in cash to Cablevision and AMC Networks, with about $80 million of the cash to be used for the purchase of Cablevision’s multichannel video and data distribution services licenses in 45 metro areas across the United States. As part of the agreement, DISH also has agreed to resume carrying AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WE TV and other AMC Networks cable television channels.

This ends the several month long blackout for DISH’s more than 14 million subscribers for the popular AMC channel, which carries the cult cable TV hit Breaking Bad as well as cable’s biggest hit drama, the zombie show The Walking Dead. AMC ran a long ad campaign about how its popular shows were not available on DISH, encouraging DISH subscribers to move to their local cable provider or a competitor like DIRECTV. AMC claimed that as much as 13 percent of its subscriber base was affected by the blackout on DISH.

As part of a multiple year agreement, AMC will be on DISH Channel 131 starting Sunday. Other AMC Network programming will return to DISH on November 1, with the Fuse music channel also beginning on November 1 as well. Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish said in a statement that a multiyear deal delivers a “fair value for both parties and includes digital expansion opportunities for AMC Networks’ programming.”

Earlier in the summer, there was a blackout on DIRECTV of Viacom channels that, while similar in nature, was resolved much more quickly. It is not clear, since reports have not yet come out, how many people switched from DIRECTV due to that struggle or from DISH due to the AMC blackout.

‘The Walking Dead’ Sets Cable TV Records

Sunday’s season three premiere of the zombie show The Walking Dead brought AMC its highest ratings yet for the biggest telecast of any drama series in basic-cable history. When including premium channels, AMC is still behind the season four premiere of The Sopranos on HBO, which drew more than 13 million viewers to The Walking Dead‘s 10.9 million. Even so, the AMC show’s season three bow brought in about twice as many viewers as its second season premiere, and is another victory for the network after Breaking Bad earlier this year.

Some surmise the debut would have been even higher and perhaps challenged the Sopranos mark if AMC were carried by DISH Network, the satellite TV provider that has not carried any AMC programming since June in a dispute over rights fees, and which claims around 14 million subscribers nationwide. AMC has run a campaign suggesting that fans of the shows on the network switch from DISH to DIRECTV or other cable providers.

Like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead is consistently growing its audience from season to season by making previous years available on DVD and Netflix. In the past, such serialized shows would have trouble gaining new audience members with new seasons, but now viewers late to the game can catch up and watch many episodes at a time in order to be ready for new seasons to begin. Take it from me: I was one of those Breaking Bad viewers who only came on at the third season after binging on rented discs of the first two years of the show.

These cable shows are also doing well in key demographics, with The Walking Dead winning the coveted 18-49 demo that most advertisers aim for, even beating out ABC’s hit comedy Modern Family. It truly is a creative and ratings renaissance for cable television.

Big Ten Network and DISH Network Come to Agreement

Satellite TV users will not have to use DIRECTV to watch the Big Ten Network, now that DISH Network has come to an agreement with the college conference associated sports channel. A statement released on September 22 confirms the return of BTN to the DISH Network channel lineup. The statement does not clarify if this is a long term agreement or a short term extension, or if the Big Ten Network will be available on basic packages or remain part of a higher-end sports tier.

The deal came in time for college football’s biggest day, Saturday, and allowed fans of Big Ten teams across the country to watch their teams’ college football matchups. DISH moved forward quickly to avoid further subscriber losses. DISH now has an advantage over the more popular DIRECTV when it comes to collegiate sports, because DISH has come to an agreement with the Pac-12 Network ahead of DIRECTV, who is digging in for a prolonged battle against the new West Coast based college sports channel. Because of this move by DISH, the Pac-12 Networks now may hold an advantage in negotiations with DIRECTV because of DISH’s new variety in college sports programming.

DIRECTV is still the leading satellite television provider in the United States, and the second-biggest provider of pay TV overall, but DISH coming to terms with both of these college sports networks shows initiative and an attempt to chip away at the DIRECTV subscriber base. AMC and DISH still have yet to reach an agreement, though, and with The Walking Dead returning to the screen, it’s unlikely many DIRECTV subscribers will make the switch just yet. If DISH can come to terms with AMC, though, DIRECTV may actually have a problem on their hands.

Holding viewers hostage as a negotiation tactic is wearing thin, especially after a summer where many disputes lost viewership for a number of popular programs across a number of networks.

Cable TV Programming Still Big During Fall Network Push

Fall is normally the time when the networks make their big push to get viewers back on board after the summer lull, but some of cable television’s biggest and best programming is making a return this fall as well. Check out just a few of the best premium and basic cable television programs that will have new seasons this fall:

Boardwalk Empire, Sundays on HBO: This Prohibition-era gangster drama has picked up steam from a slow first season and now begins its third. Steve Buscemi is great as the head of a great ensemble cast, playing gangster Nucky Thompson (is there a more Prohibition-era gangster name than Nucky Thompson?).

Treme, Sundays on HBO: The New Orleans-set drama is not a ratings success, but it is critically acclaimed and has a loyal following, much like the predecessor series from creator David Simon, The Wire.

Dexter, Sundays on Showtime: The heroic serial killer show has gotten worse and worse with each season after its peak in Season Two. Now entering its seventh season, it’s definitely past its sell-by date, but it’s a ratings hit and a big victory for Showtime, no matter how ridiculous the show gets.

Homeland, Sundays on Showtime: Last year’s breakout cable drama enters its second season, the story of a former CIA agent who’s sure a former prisoner of war who’s a double agent for the enemy.

The Walking Dead, Sundays on AMC: As long as the zombie craze keeps going, people will continue watching this hit from AMC, the biggest show on basic cable.

American Horror Story, Wednesdays on FX: Criticially reviled, this horror show was a big hit last year. Creator Ryan Murphy brings a second season that tells a whole new story with some of the same actors playing different roles.

Be sure to check your local listings as to when these shows air.

DISH Network Deal Not Likely in the Near Future

AMC and satellite TV provider DISH Network continue their dispute, with DISH Network subscribers now having lost AMC and its related channels for more than 40 days. While recent disputes between DIRECTV and Viacom were resolved within a matter of days, it seems there is no end in sight for the dispute between DISH Network and AMC, not just because of the money and lawsuits involved, but because the chairman and co-founder of DISH Network, Charlie Ergen, doesn’t seem to want to make the deal happen.

According to the website TV Geek Army, Ergen has said that AMC shows are “critically acclaimed. But not viewed as much by our audience. And our customers can go to iTunes and get ‘Mad Men’ the same time it’s on.” That could just be negotiating in public, but that doesn’t sound like the words of someone who’s in a hurry to get a deal done. While it is true that customers of DISH Network can get episodes of Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead from iTunes, that means paying for the programming in addition to what they already pay for the satellite TV service.

Ergen also seems to be underestimating his audience. It is true that Breaking Bad and Mad Men are more critically acclaimed, cult shows than they are popular, but Breaking Bad especially has grown its audience through word of mouth and DVD to gain a larger audience each year it’s been on, something that isn’t always true with a serialized show. Moreover, The Walking Dead has been one of basic cable’s biggest breakout hits in the past few years; surely DISH Network audiences were among some of those who made it one of cable TV’s most popular shows.

AMC Networks are available on the other major satellite TV and cable TV providers, such as DIRECTV and Charter Communications. Fans of some of the best shows on TV should strongly consider the switch.