Several channels are set to go dark late Thursday (Dec. 31) on Tacoma’s Click Cable TV because of a rate dispute between the network that produces “The Walking Dead” and a group that negotiates contracts for small cable companies.
As of Friday morning, the channels are still being broadcast on Click.
AMC Networks wants to more than double what it charges cable companies to broadcast its shows on up to six channels, according to Click. Those charges often are passed on to cable customers.
Click, the city-owned cable system, belongs to a negotiating group called the National Cable TV Cooperative, which has refused to give AMC Networks the rate it wants.
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Click on Thursday sent a notice to its customers advising that AMC, IFC and WE would go dark later in the day because of the rate dispute.
AMC Networks in November began warning customers about the standoff when it aired a notice on “The Walking Dead,” its acclaimed zombie apocalypse show. It urged viewers to contact their cable companies on behalf of AMC Networks.
The ads did not air on Click, but they brought the disagreement national attention.
Since then, the two sides have not reached an agreement. The channels are expected to go dark at 9 p.m. Pacific time.
NCTC has downplayed the stalemate’s effect on customers. It published a notice on its website showing that AMC is not scheduled to air new episodes of “The Walking Dead” until February.
The cooperative also took the unusual step of pointing out that its customers can watch the show on several online-only entertainment sites, such as Google Play, Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Those are some of the on-demand outlets that have been leading TV watchers to break from traditional cable providers, such as Comcast and Click.
“The cable industry as a whole is learning it’s probably better to embrace these customers accessing the programming they want wherever it is they want it,” Click business operations manager Pam Burgess said.
NCTC chief executive Rick Fickle told the website Cablefax this week that the difference between the network’s request and the cooperative’s bid is one of the biggest he’s seen. He characterized the dispute as one that is hastening the end of the “bundle” of channels cable companies offer.
“It’s good in the sense that the companies are talking, trying to work it out and be creative, all in a very professional way. But we haven’t resolved it yet,” he said.
AMC Networks released a statement to media outlets this week in which it said it “supported smaller cable operators, and the particular challenges and considerations that they face in the service of their markets. We will continue to endeavor to do everything we can to make them successful.”
A rate dispute in 2013 kept Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO off the air on Click for 31 days. Click eventually granted KOMO a 73 percent fee increase.
Analyst Rich Tullo told The New York Post this week that AMC Networks likely receives 67 cents per subscriber per month in the NCTC deal.
NCTC is negotiating a contract with AMC Networks that includes BBC America. Click has an existing contract with BBC America and that channel will not go dark because of the impasse, Burgess said.