Why DISH Dropping AMC May Be Good for Consumers

(Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC)

DISH Network customers who are fans of AMC's popular television shows "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" may be up in arms about the satellite company's decision to drop the cable channel, but consumers could use the opportunity to save money.

Jeff Blyskal, a senior editor with Consumer Reports, said potential DISH customers and existing customers should call the company and try to negotiate either a special deal or more add-on channels, such as six months of free HBO or another service.

"It certainly might be a bargaining chip when you're dealing with a monthly fee," Blyskal said.

Starting this past Saturday, DISH no longer offered AMC Networks to its subscribers after deciding not to renew its contract "due to the channels' high costs compared to their relatively low viewership," according to a company statement.

Bob Toevs, a spokesman for DISH, said the company does not anticipate lowering its price as a result of no longer offering AMC. DISH will instead provide HDNet Movies, Style and HDNet.

Toevs said DISH was the only paid television provider in 2012 that did not raise prices on base packages.

"It's something we work very hard to minimize," Toevs said.

In a Consumer Reports survey, 40 percent of customers who bargained with their cable and Internet providers received savings of up to $50 a month, such as a waiver of installation and activation fees and free premium channels.

Starting at $2 an episode, fans can watch popular AMC shows on iTunes or Amazon.com, though often with a delay. Otherwise, AMC has set up a website and phone number to assist DISH customers who may want to switch to another paid television provider.

Unless you live in New York City and have to wait weeks for the installation, Blyskal said it's "generally easy" to switch.

"There's competition out there and they're eager to steal customers," he said.

Blyskal said Dish tends to be cheaper than its satellite competitor, Directv, though both providers received high scores for television picture, sound and channel collection, according to a survey of Consumer Reports readers published in its June 2012 issue.

"So DISH is kind of a bargain already," Blyskal said.

But customers of both satellite providers had more problems than average with billing and coordinating support, the survey found.

Currently, DISH is offering special prices from $19.99 for its entry package to $40 a month for 250 channels.

DISH said AMC Networks required it to provide "low-rated channels like IFC and WE to access a few popular AMC shows." The satellite provider said AMC also "further devalued" its programming by making its handful of popular shows available to consumers via iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.com.

AMC fired back by issuing a statement on Sunday, saying, "DISH claims to put its customers first yet they've taken away DISH viewers' favorite scripted drama series, AMC's 'The Walking Dead'," which is the highest-rated scripted drama series in basic cable history, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"DISH dropped our networks not because of ratings or rates," AMC said in the statement. "In fact, DISH has not discussed rates with us at all. DISH customers have lost some of their favorite shows because of an unrelated lawsuit which has nothing at all to do with our programming."

AMC is suing Dish for $2.5 billion in damages after DISH dropped AMC's Voom HD Networks. The lawsuit, filed in 2008, is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 18 in New York State Supreme Court.