Mets Net in Time Warner-AMC Fray?

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Time Warner Cable, which won a lawsuit that permits it to drop AMC, will probably instead use its position as leverage to get Cablevision Systems Corp. to carry a new New York Mets sports channel, according to a Wall Street analyst.

In a report released Friday, Fulcrum Global Partners LLC analyst Richard Greenfield wrote that he doesn’t expect Time Warner to delete AMC, even though a judge recently ruled that the MSO could dump the network because it essentially violated its affiliation contract by straying too far from its classic-movie format.

Greenfield suggested that one of the reasons why Time Warner took on AMC, part of Cablevision, was to help secure carriage for the new regional sports network that the MSO is launching with Comcast Corp. That new network will carry Mets Major League Baseball games, which were previously shown on FSN New York, owned by Cablevision.

“Time Warner may be using the AMC situation as leverage to gain carriage for a network that is likely to be expensive for [Cablevision], in return for agreeing to a new long-term carriage agreement with AMC,” Greenfield wrote.

He also suggested that Time Warner, which is trying to free up analog bandwidth, actually wants to move AMC to a digital-only tier, which would reduce the network’s distribution across the operator by about 60%.

The MSO may also want to significantly reduce the license fee -- 25-30 cents per month, per subscriber -- for AMC, Greenfield wrote.

But Time Warner, seeking federal and local franchise approval for its purchase of Adelphia Communications Corp., has too much to lose to play “hardball” with AMC, according to Greenfield.

“Our conclusion is that AMC will recognize its strong negotiating position … and not allow itself to be dropped, suffer curtailed license fees, or be shifted to a digital-only tier,” Greenfield wrote.

AMC plans to appeal the court ruling.

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