The carriage dispute between Dish Network and AMC Networks reached a new low on Sunday night when the satellite giant dramatically changed the network's channel position after AMC aired a commercial showing its side of the battle.
Dish and AMC have been locked in a carriage dispute since May, with Dish announcing that it will drop the channel at the end of June. Dish has argued that AMC, the home of award-winning cable shows Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, is asking for too much money for programming that most of its customers don't watch. AMC has countered that Dish is angry over a separate bout in the courts with defunct programming network Voom HD, which is housed within AMC.
After AMC aired the spot on Sunday night -- which according to reports informed viewers that they would lose the channel at the end of the month and directed them to call a special number (1-855-KEEP-AMC) or visit a Web site (www.keepamc.com) to complain -- Dish moved the network, normally in the channel 130 position, to channel 9069.
According to several published reports, the change was made during the middle of AMC murder mystery series, The Killing. Those same reports said that Dish replaced the show with HDNet's airing of a concert by Canadian rock group Nickelback (no word if it was during their performance of "This Means War"). Later, other AMC Networks -- IFC (formerly channel 393) and WeTV (formerly channel 128) -- were also moved to channel position 9067 and 9068, respectively. Dish placed the Style network in WeTV's former position. Channel 393 remained blank.
AMC Networks outlet Sundance Channel, meanwhile, was dropped by Dish Network. Sundance Channel posted a message on its Web site urging channel viewers to comment on a Web site or call a toll-free number to request its return. One Dish subscriber said on an online message board that Dish had been offering three months' free of Cinemax or HBO to subscribers who asked about the drop.
"It is unfortunate that, in retaliation for an unrelated lawsuit, Dish is punishing its customers by threatening to drop the AMC Networks, and with this sudden, dramatic change in channel position, making it extremely difficult for their customers to find and watch some of the most popular and acclaimed shows on television," AMC said in a statement.
Distributors usually give customers at least several days notice of their intention to switch a channel's position. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the switch was made within two hours after the commercial aired. Viewers had to call Dish to find where AMC had been moved, and even some of the satellite giant's operators didn't know the channel had been moved or where it had gone.
Dish spokesman Bob Toevs said that the switch was made to reflect the value of the channels. The 9000 block of channels includes such low-rated fare as the Reelz Channel and some 24-hour infomercial channels.
"We felt that it was appropriate," Toevs said. "The decision to move them was a price vs. value ratio. I think that it's fair to say we will continue to negotiate with them. Despite the comments we've made over the past several weeks, we are hopeful some type of agreement [can be reached]. We recognize that there is some good programming out there, particularly on AMC. We're happy to carry it at the right price."
AMC has claimed that its zombie apocalypse series drama The Walking Dead is the No. 1 scripted series with Dish subscribers. Mad Men, currently in its fifth season, has won four Emmy Awards for Best Drama Series.