Shentel says AMC is looking for 379% fee increase from NCTC operators

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel) is the latest NCTC member company to pipe up about stalled carriage renewal talks with AMC Networks, accusing the programmer of seeking an excessive 379 percent fee increase over its current contract.

"When a programmer like AMC demands an unprecedented increase in its monthly fees, we believe it's our responsibility to take a stand," said Chris Kyle, VP of industry relations and regulatory for Shentel. "We know that the AMC channel itself has popular programming, but outside those programs the content is weak. The secondary channels are not popular and adding them to our lineup could impact our ability to enhance broadband capacity."

The National Cable TV Cooperative (NCTC) negotiates program rights deals on behalf of Edinburg, Va.-based Shentel, along with about 700 independent cable operators. The NCTC's current carriage deal with AMC Networks -- which controls AMC, IFC, Sundance, WE, BBC World and BBC America -- expires Dec. 31. 

On Sunday nights, during the just-concluded, highly-rated fall run of the drama series The Walking Dead, AMC has been running tickers in NCTC markets, warning viewers of a possible blackout. On Nov. 16, another NCTC member system, MCTV, which serves more than 47,000 customers in Ohio, issued a statement today accusing AMC of "actively trying to incite panic among our local viewers."

For its part, Kyle said that Shentel plans to reimburse cable customers the cost of the AMC channels until new programming can be obtained.

"We hold out hope that AMC will modify its proposed contract," he said. "There are many other independent cable operators who feel as we do. If nothing changes, however, those channels will go dark in 2016 on Shentel Cable."

AMC has yet to respond to FierceCable's inquiry regarding Shentel's latest rhetorical volley. However, the company did release this statement last month: "AMC has been a long-time partner of NCTC, and has created enormous value for NCTC members and their customers who enjoy our popular shows, including The Walking Dead (the No. 1 show on TV among Adults 18-49), Fear the Walking Dead, (which recently delivered the highest-rated first season of any show in cable history), Better Call Saul and many more. While we are committed to continuing to negotiate with NCTC, we are informing our loyal viewers who are NCTC customers that they are at risk of losing access to their favorite AMC shows."

As for why the NCTC's member companies are sending out the messaging and not the organization itself, MCTV President Robert Gessner told FierceCable last month, "It is an AMC/NCTC negotiation. However, it becomes 'local' because AMC switched a number of selected systems to an alternate feed and now uses that feed to insert special commercials and disruptive on-screen messages encouraging customers to contact the local system. That started about a week ago. Last night (Sunday), AMC escalated the tension to a new level when they stopped providing us with local ad avails."

For more:
- read this Shentel announcement

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AMC warns 'Walking Dead' fans of possible NCTC blackout
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