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Slow start to AMC-Dish trial

Jury selection, opening arguments set for early next week

The hotly anticipated legal smackdown between AMC Networks and Dish is off to a slow start as pre-trial proceedings ate up day one of the trial and jury selection was moved to next week, delayed by a small turnout of potential jurors.

Opening arguments, kicked off by Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan, are now expected to start Monday afternoon or Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the judge in New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan urged the two sides to keep talking. Wall Streeters still think a settlement is possible. AMC, which used to be part of Cablevision, sued Dish in 2007 after the satellite operator dropped a suite of high-definition channels called Voom. The two sides had a 15-year carriage contract subject to certain conditions. Dish says they weren’t met; AMC says they were.

But a judge in the case found Dish guilty of destroying evidence, a finding upheld on appeal this summer. Analysts think that puts the satcaster at a disadvantage.

“We continue to believe that Dish faces significant trial headwinds and that the most logical outcome is a settlement,” wrote Susquehanna Group analyst Thomas Claps in a note Thursday.

There’s a bundle of cash at stake. AMC wants $2.5 billion in damages plus $1 billion in accrued interest. And with the new season of “The Walking Dead” starting Oct. 14, an agreement could be good news for those Dish subscribers missing AMC shows since Dish yanked them from its system in June. Dish said removing AMC and sister networks Sundance, IFC and WeTV was only about carriage fees; AMC insists it was to gain leverage at the trial.

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