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Regional Cable Company Officially Drops AMC Networks In Dispute Over Streaming of Content on AMC+

Jeff Kotuby

Regional cable company TDS Telecom just removed all AMC Networks from its systems — at least for the moment.

To bring everyone up to speed, the cable operator, which has thousands of customers in Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Utah, was upset with AMC Networks’ shift of at least some of its first-run original programming from its linear networks to its premium streaming platform, AMC Plus.

After contentious talks between the two sides restarted last week, it looked like there would potentially be a solution to the dispute. However, it looks like nothing constructive came from those talks, and now TDS customers will be without AMC, BBC America, We TV, BBC World News, IFC, and SundanceTV.

TDS Telecom has referred to the moves by AMC Networks as “unfair business practices” toward its subscribers. According to TDS, AMC is keeping premium content away from its linear cable subscribers in favor of its direct-to-consumer option AMC Plus.

In a corporate blog post, TDS Telecom said, “TDS does not agree with AMC’s decision to move valued content from live TV distribution to distribution exclusively on their streaming service. Asking cable subscribers to pay more while the AMC Network carves out highly valued content and delivers less to cable subscribers is not fair or reasonable.”

Despite the grim appearance, there technically is still hope here. According to an email exchange with NextTV, TDS Telecom director of external affairs & communications Kit Beyer said a deal with the channels couldn’t be reached, but added if AMC were to strike a favorable deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative, then TDS may reconsider its stance. TDS is a member of NCTC, the buying group for about 700 smaller cable operators across the country,

“TDS dropped AMC Network channels as planned and communicated to our customers,” Beyer said in the email message. “If AMC comes back to NCTC members that no longer carry the network’s channels and offer lower rates or more flexible package options, creating value for consumers in this new environment of streaming services, TDS would review the terms and relaunch the network.”

However, according to sources close to NextTV, AMC has already completed that deal with NCTC. “AMC Networks completed a comprehensive carriage agreement with the NCTC within the past few months,” NextTV’s sources said. “That deal included more than 600 NCTC members with several million customers. The systems that opted out of that deal accounted for less than 150,000 customers.”

Regardless of what happens, this precedent can be dangerous should other cable providers decide to drop channels over streaming exclusives. Don’t be surprised if some of those cable and satellite providers begin to demand more cash for carriage rights. And if they don’t get them right away, don’t be surprised if some of your favorite channels get pulled offline during those potentially contentious negotiations. As companies like Discovery, NBCUniversal, and ViacomCBS look to bolster their streaming services with original content, cable networks could pull the plug and force these networks to pay up or get out.

AMC Plus is a premium streaming service available through Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Roku, Xfinity, Dish Network, DirecTV, YouTube TV, and Sling TV. It includes content from AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, and IFC Films Unlimited. It costs $8.99 per month.

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