AMC warns 'Walking Dead' fans of possible NCTC blackout

AMC Networks ran crawls during Sunday night's airing of The Walking Dead, warning subscribers to NCTC cable systems that the hit zombie drama, as well as other AMC and WEtv programming, could soon be blacked out if a new carriage agreement isn't made between AMC and NCTC. 

The National Cable TV Cooperative, which negotiates carriage agreements for about 700 small, independent cable systems, has so far not issued a comment. However, 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."

The current carriage agreement between AMC and the NCTC runs out on Dec. 31.

"Let's face it," MCTV President Robert Gessner said in the statement, "AMC is trying to scare viewers into helping AMC raise their rates. It's pretty shameful to abuse your fans in that manner, but that's the state of big media companies these days."

AMC responded with this statement: "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 #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."

Asked by FierceCable why MCTV was taking on the fight with AMC directly, instead of letting NCTC do battle, Gessner responded, "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."

Gessner said AMC's current proposal for a new deal includes "a significant cost increase, that will ultimately be passed on to all of our customers, as well as a requirement that we add (and pay for) other low-rated changes such s BBC World News that none of our customers are requesting and our current research shows now one is watching."

For more:
- read this MCTV press release

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