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TW wins a classic case

Court rules in favor of cabler

NEW YORK — In shunning golden oldies for fresher movie titles, AMC violated its contract with Time Warner Cable.

New York civil-court Judge Bernard J. Fried has ruled in favor of Time Warner Cable in AMC’s suit against the cabler, agreeing with TW that it had not waived the network’s contractual obligation to provide older movies as the linchpin of AMC’s lineup.

When TW renewed its agreement with AMC back in 1993, 94.4% of the network’s movies got their theatrical release between 1930 and 1959 and only 5.1% were post-1960. In addition, 73.8% of the movies were in black and white.

In November 2003 AMC filed suit to fight the termination notice instituted by TW, which had claimed breach of contract over the changes in AMC’s programming strategy.

In the years between 1993 and 2002, the judge’s decision stated, “Pre-1960 movies dropped dramatically to 18.9% of all movies, while post-1960 movies increased to 81.1% of the movie programming.” And the number of black-and-white pictures plummeted from 73.8% to only 14.8%.

“Of course, we disagree with the judge’s ruling,” said a spokesman for Chuck Dolan’s Rainbow Media, parent company of AMC, “and plan to appeal immediately” to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

Even if Rainbow fails to get the decision overturned on appeal, the industry doesn’t expect TW to drop AMC from any of its cable systems spread throughout the country and reaching nearly 11 million of AMC’s total 87 million subscribers. But TW may be able to negotiate a more favorable price for AMC, which probably costs TW about $25 million a year to carry.

“Time Warner Cable is gratified the Supreme Court of the state of New York has held American Movie Classics to the contractual commitments it made to us,” said a statement released by TW. “We are presently evaluating our relationship with the network going forward.”

The Rainbow spokesman said the judge’s decision “will not affect the quality of programming that subscribers have come to expect from AMC.”

TW and Rainbow have engaged in contentious negotiations before, most recently over two of Dolan’s regional sports networks, Madison Square Garden and Fox Sports New York. Rainbow pulled both networks from TW’s systems in the New York area for a few months when the parties couldn’t reach agreement on price earlier this year. Jawboning by city and state officials finally got both sides to agree to a new contract.

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