Alaska cable operator General Communications Inc. (GCI) said it will not carry AMC Networks or Univision in 2016 because of "substantial" hikes in carriage fees for the two networks. The company also is offering its TiVo customers a $50 Visa gift card to encourage them to find AMC content via other alternatives such Vudu and Netflix.
In a press release, GCI said that AMC's most recent proposal asked for a 200 percent increase in fees for the cable company to carry all the networks' channels as a condition for getting the AMC channel.
GCI said that viewers that want to see AMC's popular TV series The Walking Dead can view the content via the Vudu app on GCI's TiVo service as well as other online outlets. "The good news is that our customers have more viewing choices than ever before and GCI has made sure that fans can watch The Walking Dead by other methods with GCI so they won't miss an episode when season 6 resumes in February," said Bob Ormberg, GCI's VP of content and product management.
GCI's decision to not carry AMC Networks is not a huge surprise. Earlier in the month, the National Cable TV Cooperative said that AMC was asking its members to pay licensing fees based on their total subscriber base, not just the customers who subscribe to AMC channels. The NCTC called a meeting with FCC officials to discuss the matter and called AMC's demand an attempt to protect itself from "cord shaving," or the trend of pay-TV customers to drop to "skinny" programming tiers to save money.
AMC's demands are somewhat unprecedented -- popular cable networks like ESPN have long demanded that their channels get carried in the most widely viewed tiers, but programmers have rarely required a cable company to pay licensing fees based upon all their subscribers and not just those that subscribe to their networks.
NCTC represents more than 700 cable systems covering more than 4 million subscribers and it's possible that other cable MSOs will follow GCI's lead.
AMC channels include not only the flagship AMC, but also WE tv, IFC and Sundance TV. AMC Networks also negotiates on behalf of BBC America and BBC World News, following its purchase of 50 percent equity in BBC America last year.
- see this GCI release
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