Dish to Drop AMC Networks Amid Escalating War of Words

The two sides dispute whether a recent appellate court decision contributed to Dish customers no longer getting "Mad Men," "'The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad."

Dish Network is dropping channels from AMC Networks including AMC, IFC, WE tv and Sundance. But the satellite carrier says the decision has nothing to do with ongoing litigation between the companies.

The animosity between the two sides emanates from Dish's previous decision in 2008 to terminate an affiliation agreement with AMC subsidiary Voom HD.

Dish asserted the right to do this because Voom's affiliation agreement with its predecessor EchoStar Satellite required at least $100 million in investment per year. The satellite giant believes that AMC didn't hold up its side of the bargain, and the lack of investment resulted in "lackluster channels that generated little consumer or distributor interest."

Voom sued Dish in 2008 in New York Supreme Court, first seeking an injunction and later seeking damages for improper termination. Dish countersued, alleging breach of contract, good faith and fair dealing.

The main fight has been stalled over the issue of whether Dish spoiled evidence. A judge sanctioned Dish over destruction of evidence, leading to a couple of appeals, both affirming the judge's decision. The latest affirmation was made last week in the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court.

On Friday, Dish announced it was dropping AMC's networks by the end of June, triggering a heated war of words between the companies.

AMC believes the connection is obvious.

"Within days of the denial of Dish’s final avenue of pre-trial appeal, Dish informed AMC Networks of its intention to drop its award-winning networks," said the company in a statement that also pointed out that Dish's customers would miss such shows as Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.

Dish responded that AMC had put out a "self-serving release" that "distorts the facts of the current situation and incorrectly attempts to tie together two separate issues."

The satellite company explained.

"Dish’s contract with AMC Networks was nearing its end, and we decided not to renew at the end of June," the satcaster said. "Our decision to drop AMC Networks’ channels is solely dependent on their high renewal cost when compared to their low viewership. Dish will make alternative high-value channels available to our customers as replacements.”

Dish also added that customers could still see Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and other AMC shows through such outlets as Amazon, iTunes and Netflix.

Meanwhile, the Voom legal battle continues as it seems headed to trial, and undoubtedly the two companies will continue to argue over why Dish really decided to drop AMC channels.


Twitter: @eriqgardner