So yesterday Viacom showed us one way of dealing with a carriage dispute, by taking down online versions of its programming when DirecTV pointed disgruntled viewers to the web as a way to get their Daily Show fix. But AMC Networks, which is in the midst of its own dispute with satellite provider Dish, has taken just the opposite approach: This Sunday, it will be streaming the season premiere of Breaking Bad for free online.
At www.amctv.com/breakingbad4dish/, the cable network has set up a page that will let users register starting Friday, to watch a live stream of the Season Five premiere at the same time that the show is broadcast on cable and satellite service. While there will be free registration involved to tune in, an AMC spokesperson confirmed that there’s no real way for the network to verify that viewers are actually Dish subscribers. But the assumption is that if they don’t pay for Dish, they’ll probably be watching through a competing cable or satellite service.
The promotion is basically AMC’s way of putting the screws to Dish in its carriage dispute. AMC hopes that by promoting Breaking Bad online, it will gain viewer support in its fight against the satellite company and prompt some of it subscribers to switch providers. That’s an offensive maneuver, in comparison to the largely defensive move that Viacom took when it made its online videos unavailable to anyone.
But it’s more than just different philosophies for how to treat online video in wake of a contract disagreement. While Viacom’s dispute is about the fees that DirecTV should pay for access to its content, at the heart of Dish’s takedown of AMC channels is a lawsuit that the two are involved in.
At issue is VOOM HD, an independent subsidiary of AMC, which is suing Dish for breach of contract. The short version is that Dish had a deal with VOOM HD, but pulled its channels after the network failed to attract any real ratings. With that lawsuit going to trial in September, Dish used the only real leverage it had to force a settlement and dropped AMC-owned networks it was carrying. While Dish is characterizing the dispute as being about carriage fees, it reportedly never even entered into contract negotiations before dropping AMC channels.
At this point, AMC knows that its shows won’t be available to Dish subscribers unless it reaches a settlement or a jury rules in its favor. And it might have a good chance of winning, according to BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.
In the meantime, the best it can do is to push back and try to convince viewers to abandon their satellite provider. With the first half of the final season of Breaking Bad about to get underway, they’re betting that more than a few rabid fans will do just that.