We'll never know for certain the precise mix of factors that caused Dish to settle with AMC Networks on Sunday, and the trial certainly wasn't going well for the satellite company.

TWD_GP_304_0615_0082Still, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn't rule out the influence of "The Walking Dead" – and its legions of ravenous fans — in at least helping to motivate the company to look for a way out.

After all, "Dead" returned on Oct. 14 to record ratings even without Dish subscribers, which account for about one in seven homes with cable or satellite. At some point, even a company as arrogant as Dish had to start worrying about losing customers who weren't going to be satisfied by being told to go rent the show on Netflix.

Granted, there are only so many subscribers so hooked as to go through the trouble of changing their service because of the Dish-AMC standoff. But if that amounted to even a couple hundred thousand people, does Dish really want to throw away those subs in this environment?

Meanwhile, after its staggering debut, "Dead" will now reach about 14 million additional homes with Dish back on board, making life that much tougher on every other Sunday-night program. The only good news is DVRs will likely be working overtime — at least in the homes of discriminating viewers — with programs like "Dead," "Boardwalk Empire," "Homeland," "Dexter," "Revenge," "Once Upon a Time" and "The Good Wife" all on the Sunday-night menu.

However one views the timing, if those responsible for "The Walking Dead" had leverage in future negotiations with AMC before, after those jaw-dropping ratings and now this latest turn of events, watch out.

And if there's a message here for future carriage disputes (even if this one was unusual in several respects), I think it's as simple as this: People love individual shows more than networks, and generally like both a whole lot more than the distributors who deliver programming to them. Put another way: I've never had to wait four hours for an AMC technician to show up at my house, acting like he was doing me a favor for the privilege of letting me pay $100-plus a month for service.

For Dish, that might be a lesson best served cold.

 

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