AMC uses 'Walking Dead' to scare up leverage in DirecTV talks

Seeking to get the upper hand in ongoing renewal talks with DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), AMC Networks on Sunday broke out the old viewer scare tactics during its presentation of its hit zombie drama The Walking Dead.

The satellite carrier, AMC told viewers in a 30-second commercial, "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 urged viewers to contact call their satellite carrier and "get direct with them."

DirecTV, meanwhile, shot back with its own spot, noting that AMC is contractually obligated to continue providing programming for several more months and that it intends to renew its contract with AMC "at a price that's fair to our customers."

The first half of The Walking Dead's 16-episode fifth season concludes Nov. 3. The last half is set to debut in February.

This is a powerful on-air threat, with the No. 1 scripted series on television averaging over 20 million viewers this season once DVR usage is factored in. Two years ago, it was the impending season-three premiere of the Walking Dead that forced Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) to end its three-month AMC blackout. And at the time, the show enjoyed only about half the audience it does now.

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this TV Predictions story

Related links:
Will Dish Network settle Voom dispute with AMC Networks?
AMC pays $200M for 49.9 percent share of BBC America
AMC's 'Walking Dead' shatters cable ratings record, even beats NFL football

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