Dish subscribers may have to look elsewhere for "Mad Men," "The Walking Dead," "Portlandia" and a host of other shows: The satellite distributor says it will drop AMC Networks from its lineup, following a setback in a lawsuit with AMC.
Dish denied in a statement Friday that the decision not to renew the contract when it ends in June had anything to do with the setback. It said AMC Networks drew low ratings and were charging too much in renewal costs.
AMC Networks owns IFC, WE tv, and the Sundance Channel, as well as the network that bears its name and airs the Emmy favorites as "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," as well as "The Walking Dead."
The zombie drama is the highest-rated basic cable drama in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, and is also, according to AMC, the top scripted show among Dish subscribers. But shows on other AMC networks don't perform nearly as well.
AMC tried to cast doubt on Dish's statement that ratings were its reason for cutting ties. It noted that Dish's decision not to renew its contract came just days after a legal ruling against Dish.
"It is unfortunate that, because of setbacks in an unrelated litigation, Dish even suggests that they might deny their customers access to some of their favorite networks and shows that are offered by every other major satellite and cable TV provider," AMC said in a statement.
The lawsuit began when Voom HD, an indirect subsidiary of AMC Networks, sued Dish for breach of contract. The case involves a contract in which Dish agreed to carry Voom's suite of HD networks for 15 years. Voom contends that Dish improperly terminated the contract in 2008 and is seeking more than $2.5 billion in damages.
In a pretrial ruling, AMC said, a judge determined that Dish had destroyed evidence in the Voom case. Last week, the Appelate Division of the New York State Supreme Court denied an application by Dish to appeal the decision -- leaving the case to be set for trial.
Dish said in its statement that AMC Network's "very limited popular programming is non-exclusive, and available to our customers through multiple other outlets such as Amazon.com, iTunes and Netflix." It also said it would make "alternative high-value channels available to our customers as replacements.”
In the Voom matter, it said the company did not keep a promise to make "substantial investments in compelling content."