Calling the carriage dispute between NCTC and AMC Networks a symptom of a "broken" video marketplace, the American Cable Association has collected 228 member signatures on a letter asking the FCC to intervene in the process.
"NCTC has been trying to negotiate with AMCN since September, and AMCN has engaged in a number of unfair and egregious acts to force members to agree to their terms," said ACA in a letter than includes signatures from CEOs, general managers, presidents and other high-ranking execs from small cable systems, most of which negotiate their program deals through the National Cable TV Cooperative.
AMC Networks has threatened to pull its channels off NCTC's more than 700 member cable systems on Dec. 31 if a renewal deal isn't made. The two sides have been operating without a new contract since February.
Among a litany of accusations, ACA said AMC is trying to force NCTC members to also bundle lesser channels including IFC, WEtv, Sundance, BBC World News and BBC America, in order to gain access to the popular AMC flagship channel.
ACA is accusing AMC of price discrimination, charging double the rate it bills larger cable operators for certain channels.
ACA members also complained about the way AMC went about issuing blackout warnings to customers during recent Sunday night presentations of hit series The Walking Dead. The org said that AMC "re-tuned" members' receivers so that it could target the warning crawls to certain systems.
"Under the guise of performing 'routine maintenance,' ACA said," AMCN re-tuned operators' receivers for alternative feeds providing no notice and, in many cases, causing service outages affecting consumers and forcing cable operators to deploy crews and trucks to remedy the loss of signal. The resulting chaos could have been entirely avoided simply by providing notice to operators."
Perhaps most concerning to ACA members is this issue: "AMCN insists operators pay on the total number of their video subscribers instead of the number of subscribers that actually receive the service, meaning consumers will have to pay for services they would not even receive."
AMC has taken an unprecedented tact in its NCTC negotiations, attempting to charge every subscriber for every one of its channels. It is believed that the programmer is trying to protect itself from the ongoing "cord-shaving" trend, in which both operators and their customers are trying to reduce the size of their program bundles.
AMC released the following statement earlier this week: "We have extraordinarily high regard for the NCTC and for its members. We have long supported smaller cable operators, and the particular challenges and considerations that they face in the service of their markets. We will continue to endeavor to do everything we can to make them successful."
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