By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The AMC network is undoubtedly the king of cable stations right now. Boasting some of the best-reviewed and most-watched dramas, the network has easily the best lineup of original programming since mid-'90s "must see TV" NBC, with "Friends," "Seinfeld," "ER" and others.
But the guys who run the network are jerks.
When AMC wants more money for programming rights, they have a playground-bully formula meant to rile up fans of shows against the programmer.
We're seeing the latest chapter of this in Joplin. "Walking Dead" fans for the past two weeks have seen a crawl during the show that is meant to rally the troops and call out Cable One for kicking AMC off the air.
At the website iwantmytv channels.com, AMC encourages viewers to call Cable One and let the company know that they should keep AMC as part of the lineup. AMC provides a phone number, an email address and social networking links where loyals can rattle their sabers at that low-down, no-good Cable One.
There's no information about why AMC might be dropped. No press releases, no company statements, nothing. Just a call to action.
The page is similar to what AMC rolled out in a highly publicized contract dispute with Dish Network last year.
I'm sympathetic to Cable One simply because AMC threw the first punch, and they have a history of bullying programmers. But Cable One is acting just as loudly and brashly over this, and the result is an embarrassing fight messier than what Daryl did to that one zombie's head with the tailgate of an SUV.
Shortly after AMC rolled out the first volleys, Cable One responded with its own campaign. On its Facebook page, the company reported it is working diligently with AMC to renew a broadcasting contract, and said the folks at AMC demand a 520-percent increase, and also that Cable One pay for affiliated networks that no one gives a crap about. It has its own call-to-arms website: stop programminghikes.com.
Looks like the battle brewing here is bigger than the one between the Ricktator and the Governor.
Where AMC has kept its mouth shut about details, Cable One has spilled a ton on its Facebook page -- so much so that it can't keep its own numbers straight. The percentage AMC is asking has ranged from 400 to 520 percent, according to the cable company. And the company is not revealing how much AMC pays compared to other premium cable services.
In a sense, both sides are right. AMC has definitely increased its value over the past five years with "Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men." And Cable One is a smaller company that doesn't have the legal history with AMC that Dish did, so it's not deserving of the same treatment AMC gave Dish Network last year (hence the history of bullying).
This battle isn't going to win over fans or cause people to change cable services if it doesn't get resolved by an alleged deadline of March 15. I'm sticking with Cable One because there's no better value for fast Internet and TV programming in Joplin. But one of my co-workers is intrigued by Dish's Hopper -- especially when compared to Cable One's lackluster DVR limitations and unreliability -- and dropping AMC will simply be that backbreaking straw on the camel.
Both companies are using fans to fight their battles. Not cool.
Both should have kept their mouths shut and hashed this out in meeting rooms, not on TV.