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Aggrieved by streaming, TDS threatens to pull AMC channels

(Logo courtesy TDS Cable, Graphic by The Desk)

TDS Telecom is threatening to pull around a half-dozen cable channels owned by AMC Networks, accusing the network of promoting its own streaming service to the detriment of paying cable TV customers.

In a blog post published earlier this month, TDS Telecom said it would stop carrying the channels because it was not able to reach a “fair and reasonable agreement” during discussions with AMC Networks over a new carriage agreement.

Affected channels include AMC’s own flagship network as well as IFC, Sundance and We TV. The domestic versions of BBC America and BBC World News are also impacted; AMC licenses the BBC brand name for these channels from BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

AMC’s recent decision to foray into the ever-crowded space of streaming services was specifically cited as the aggravating factor behind TDS Telecom’s decision to pull its channels. The streamer, AMC Plus, was launched last year in partnership with Comcast at a price of $5 a month.

This year, AMC began promoting AMC Plus across its TV networks, telling viewers they can watch debut shows like “Kevin Can F–k Himself” earlier if they subscribe to the streaming service (otherwise, they have to wait until later this fall when the shows begin).

AMC has also selectively released new episodes of certain hit shows, including “The Walking Dead,” earlier on AMC Plus while at the same time forcing cable, satellite and some streaming TV customers to wait for their debut.

“TDS does not agree with AMC’s decision to move valued content from live TV distribution to distribution exclusively on their streaming service,” Cheryl McCollum, a public relations manager for TDS Cable, said in a statement. “Asking cable subscribers to pay more while the AMC Network carves out highly valued content and delivers less to cable subscribers is not fair or reasonable.”

TDS Telecom says it has more than 1.2 million customers across the United States, many of whom are in rural areas that would otherwise not be served by a traditional cable or broadband company. Of those customers, around 280,000 households subscribe to a cable TV package offered by TDS Telecom. Some AMC channels are included in TDS Telecom’s basic pay TV package.

Originally, TDS Telecom said the AMC channels would be dropped on June 10, but there is some indication that the channels may stay on its systems: On Wednesday, the website Multichannel News reported discussions between TDS Telecom and AMC Networks had re-started with a possible goal of reaching a carriage agreement.

“Since TDS notified its customers that it would no longer carry the AMC Network, discussions have restarted with the network,” a TDS spokesperson told the website this week. “TDS will continue to fight for fair rates and terms for our customers and will strive for a reasonable outcome.”

A decision by TDS to drop the channels could actually push hardcore AMC fans toward the streaming service that was the root of the cable company’s complaint. Though it is now more-expensive than it was when it debuted on Comcast’s systems — AMC is now charging between $7 a month and $9 a month to subscribe — AMC Plus is now available on more platforms, including the Apple TV app, Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Roku Channel. It is also available through Dish Network and DirecTV

TDS customers could also simply drop their cable package for a streaming TV alternative: YouTube TV and Sling TV both offer AMC channels and the option to subscribe to AMC Plus. Philo, a wallet-friendly streaming service, offers all of AMC’s linear channels as part of their base package, which costs $25 a month.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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