AMC: Nets will likely be off Dish for months

CEO Josh Sapan doesn't expect resolution before Sept. trial

AMC Networks’ CEO Josh Sapan said Tuesday that he fully expects to be booted off satcaster Dish ahead of a Sept. 18 trial date to resolve a long-standing dispute.

“We do anticipate that we’ll be off that platform for a period of several months…and then we’ll be in court and we’ll see how that goes,” he told investors at the Stifel Nicolaus media conference in New York.

He reiterated AMC execs’ belief that Dish toppers are using its carriage deals as leverage in the case. The company has already yanked the Sundance Channel and is contractually entitled to unplug flagship AMC, IFC and WeTV at the end of June.

Dish has insisted the move isn’t related to the lawsuit but stems from the fact that not enough of its subscribers watch AMC shows, which include “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead,” and the ones who want to can find the series on Netflix or other platforms.

The battle is about a 4-year-old equity partnership between the companies — AMC Networks was part of Cablevision then — in a satellite venture called Voom. AMC is suing for $2.5 billion in damages. The trial could be lengthy, and meanwhile, AMC will be missing some of its affiliate fees and advertising revenue.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Mogil estimated carriages fees from Dish at $60 million-$70 million a year.

On the upfronts, Sapan said AMC isn’t done yet but is seeing strong demand in pricing and volume. He anticipates overall cable sales will be solid but not as robust as last year.