AMC Networks has turned “The Walking Dead” into a bullhorn for airing its grievance with DirecTV. The cabler sounded the alarm during Sunday’s episode that its carriage agreement with the satcaster is due to expire at year’s end — before the zombie drama’s fifth season closer airs next year.
AMC began warning DirecTV viewers about the potential for the channel to go dark in on-air spots and graphic snipes during the show, which opened its fifth season on Oct. 12 with 17.2 million viewers.
The spot did not mention DirecTV by name but it urged concerned viewers to call the 855-KEEPAMC hotline or visit the KeepAMC.com website. Later in the episode a crawl popped up on screen warning “You are at risk of losing AMC and ‘The Walking Dead’ and repeating the Keep AMC contact info.
In a brewing carriage fight, programmers have every incentive to get fans worked up about the potential loss of easy access to favorite shows. “Walking Dead’s” bifurcated fifth season will run through the end of November, and then resume with fresh episodes airing February through April.
In a statement, AMC accused DirecTV of failing to negotiate and even violating its existing deal. Reps for DirecTV could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday. DirecTV is in the midst of a merger with AT&T, which makes it a bad time for the satcaster to get into a public scrape with a programmer. The contract covers all four AMC Networks channels: AMC, IFC, Sundance and We TV.
In a statement AMC said: “DirecTV’s agreement to carry AMC expires mid-way through the current season of ‘The Walking Dead.’ We’ve had a long, successful partnership with DirecTV and have great respect for their management team and the business they’ve built. Our goal is to continue our partnership, by renewing our agreement and extending our business relationship well into the future. Unfortunately, DirecTV has not engaged in meaningful negotiations with us, which leaves us to doubt whether a timely renewal is possible. In addition, DirecTV is in violation of our current agreement, and it has dropped AMC in Latin America. We hope to finalize a new agreement quickly but in the meantime, we think it is important to alert DirecTV customers who care about “The Walking Dead” that their ability to watch the show on DirecTV is at risk.”
AMC has leaned on its shows in the past to make its case in carriage fights. In July 2012, when the cable group was in a long row with satcaster Dish Network, AMC crafted spots warning fans that they would miss the fifth season premiere of “Breaking Bad” because of the business battle.