On Saturday night, the last day of June, the contract between Dish and AMC expired and the MVPD dropped all the network’s channels. Retransmission negotiations had failed to produce an agreement and, as of July 1, Dish’s 14 million customers no longer had access to shows like Mad Men and Walking Dead. Though this dispute will likely be resolved in the next two weeks (the time when which new programming debuts and Dish subscribers start to complain more loudly), I find Dish’s rhetoric quite revealing.
According to Dish senior programming VP Dave Shull, “AMC Networks requires us to carry low-rated channels like IFC and WE tv to access a few popular AMC shows. The math is simple: it’s not a good value for our customers.”
So let me get this right: Dish does not like being forced to pay for channels it does not want, which is what happens when networks like AMC bundle high-value and low-value channels together and tell distributors to take it all or leave it.
Seems like a reasonable argument. Dish should be allowed to select and pay for only the channels that it wants, and not be forced to pay for things it does not want. That’s the American way, right?
Ironically, this same argument is used by consumer groups against MVPDs like Dish that force consumers to buy bundles of high- and low-value channels and tell them to take it or leave it.
Strange that the argument is valid when Dish uses it against AMC, but when subscribers use it against Dish (or any other MVPD) it does not hold water. To paraphrase the industry position, “A la carte TV would undermine the entire business model that has brought a growing variety of quality content to so many consumers, not to mention significant revenue loss and the layoff of hundreds of thousands of employees.” Cannot the same argument be made by AMC against Dish or any other MVPD requesting that these bundles be broken? Of course it can.
Spewing contradictions is nothing new for MVPDs specifically or for corporations in general. For these pseudo-people, truth is a function of interest, and arguments are valid insofar as they support corporate interests (and invalid when used against them).
As Congress considers the question of a la carte content offerings—and is bombarded with data from firms like Needham intended to scare them into a decision favorable to operators—I can only hope that MVPD arguments against breaking bundles are exposed for what they are: unsound, biased, self-serving, and inconsistent with long-term consumer value (the very ethic Dish embraces when attacking AMC).