AMC Taunts Dish With ‘Breaking Bad’ Freebie

AMC will stream the first episode in the upcoming fifth season of “Breaking Bad” for Dish customers at a site that greets visitors with the welcoming words, “Dish dropped AMC, so we’re offering a special livestream of the premiere for Dish customers, right here.”

Viewers are invited to begin registering at the site on Friday afternoon in order to watch the episode on Sunday.

What precipitated this unusual action was Dish Network’s decision last month to drop AMC Network’s IFC, WE and AMC channels from its programming lineup. As replacements, Dish seeded the channels with commercial-free HD movies.

Some viewers protested — especially as the discontinuation of AMC’s programming came right before the start of “Breaking Bad’s” season premiere.

Fortunately for these fans, AMC was happy to respond, while also taking the opportunity to push back against Dish for its move.

And While You Are Here…

Lest viewers think this will be a regular overture on AMC’s part, the company makes it clear it is a one-time event. Anyone who wants to see the rest of the season, it helpfully suggests on the site, should “switch television providers now.”

The situation is almost the mirror image of a dispute between Viacom and DirecTV. DirecTV canceled Viacom’s lineup of programming because of the 30 percent price hike Viacom was insisting on. DirecTV took to the Web to present its side of the story to its customers.

Pricing appears to be at the heart of Dish’s dispute with AMC as well. When it announced its cancellation of the AMC package last month, Dish noted it was the only pay-TV provider that has not raised its core package prices this year.

It also took issue with AMC’s bundling of its content. Dish complained that AMC was forcing it to carry low-rated channels such as IFC and WE along with its more popular channels that carried shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” to name just two.

Another complaint Dish has with AMC is that it is making its programming available on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon — a move that has no doubt prompted more than a few of its subscribers to desert Dish.

Consumers Win, Really

All of this Sturm und Drang is good for cable and satellite customers, independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times — even if in the short-term they find themselves missing out on their favorite programs.

“It is good news that we are seeing more television providers, be they DirecTV or Dish or Time Warner, side with the customer about rising prices,” he said.

Granted, these companies only took up their customer advocacy in such a vocal manner after subscribers began cutting the cord, but it is still a win for consumers, Kagan said. “Cable providers are drawing a line in the sand about programming price increases. They now realize that pricing has become the key to survival.”

Do Consumers Care Who Is at Fault?

Both content producers and service providers are making overtures to consumers in this campaign, noted David Johnson, principal of Strategic Vision. It is doubtful, though, that many consumers are studying the nuances of this dispute with an interest in determining who is right and who is wrong.

“Face it, people just want to watch their TV shows,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “They don’t care why a show is suddenly not available on cable — they just care that it is not there.”

That would suggest that TV programmers, and their one-degree removed relationship with consumers have the upper hand. After all, if someone turns on their Dish-supplied TV to watch “Mad Men,” who will they blame when the channel is not there?

Not that TV production companies are free and clear on this, Johnson added, especially as service providers make clear the reason why a favorite station is suddenly dark.

“People do understand a choice between a higher bill or not being able to watch a show,” he said. “And when presented with the choice in those terms, especially in this economy, they might well opt for doing without a channel.”

AMC and Dish did not respond to our requests for further details.

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