Canada's Bell TV is 'Mad' about AMC

Sat TV operator to offer net's programming starting next week

TORONTO -- U.S. cable channel AMC on Monday continued its climb onto premium Canadian digital cable and satellite TV services, thanks to Don Draper and his five-martini lunches.

Domestic satellite TV operator Bell TV said it will offer AMC in standard and high definition from Nov. 11, with Matthew Weiner's popular postwar Americana drama "Mad Men" and Hollywood movies as the big draw.

"With a huge selection of movies and some of the hottest shows on television, AMC is set to be a hit with Bell TV subscribers," Kevin Crull, president of Bell Residential Services, said Monday.

Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Harris on the hit Lionsgate series, was in Toronto to promote the Bell TV launch.

Western Canadian cable operator Shaw Communications in September started airing AMC in HD just as the third season of "Mad Men" debuted on the U.S. channel stateside.

Both Shaw and Bell TV followed Rogers Communications, Canada's largest cable operator, which started offering AMC in 2006, at the same time it introduced Turner Classic Movies.

"It has definitely supported its (AMC) efforts," a Rogers spokesperson said of offering "Mad Men" to its digital cable subscribers.

Also driving the penetration of AMC onto Canadian digital cable and satellite TV services is the absence of a free, over-the-air network slot for "Mad Men."

The CTV network aired the first two seasons of the popular series, but did not pick up the third season.

That left only Rogers' digital subscribers in Ontario to view episodes of AMC on-demand, until Shaw and Bell TV pulled the trigger.

To also fill the vacuum left by CTV, the Canadian distributor of "Mad Men," Maple Pictures did a deal with Apple iTunes Canada to enable downloads of individual episodes for $2.49, or $3.49 in high definition, and augment revenue for parent and series producer Lionsgate.

Besides movies, the Canadian AMC channel includes the series "Breaking Bad" and the miniseries "The Prisoner," beginning Nov. 15.