If you’re a DirecTV subscriber and a fan of The Walking Dead, you may have noticed alerts during the Sunday, November 2 episode indicating the show may no longer be available by the end of the year.
The contract between DirecTV and AMC, a popular network with shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, and, of course, the ratings-crushing The Walking Dead, is set to expire by 2015. And the network and distributor have yet to come to a desirable agreement to extend that partnership, leaving viewers potentially zombie-less by the end of the year. What’s more, DirecTV has dropped AMC in Latin America, fueling the battle between the two – AMC argues the move is in breach of the existing agreement.
“DirecTV has not engaged in meaningful negotiations with us,” said AMC in a statement, “which leaves us to doubt whether a timely renewal is possible.”
It goes to show the tremendous power of a TV show. The Walking Dead has twice snagged more ratings than Sunday Night Football, including the latest episode that raked in an impressive 14.5 million viewers and gained a 7.6 rating among the all-important 18-49 demographic. That’s a pretty powerful bargaining chip for AMC to use. Especially when you consider that, if talks are not successful, DirecTV customers would lose access to The Walking Dead halfway through its current season. The season pauses November 30, goes on hiatus for the holidays, then resumes in February. Nothing would enrage a die-hard fan more than not being able to pick back up come February 2015. And AMC knows this.
The situation is reminiscent of a few years ago, when AMC protested with zombies on the streets of New York City after DISH Network dropped the channel from its lineup. In 2012, DirecTV was in a similar situation with Viacom after a licensing dispute left customers without popular channels like Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, and Spike. Eventually, Viacom was reported to receive about $600 million per year from DirectTV for carrying its 26 channels.
If this dispute isn’t resolved in time, fans may need to turn to the Internet to get their fix and bide their time. Options for watching The Walking Dead online include Vudu, iTunes, M-Go, Playstation Entertainment Network, Google Play, and Xbox Live (all à la carte at $2/episode), or from Amazon Prime Instant video at $2/episode or $27 for a season pass that will net you all of season 5.
On the AMC Website, a pop-up message appears warning DirecTV customers that they may soon lose access to their favorite series. “Tell DirecTV,” it urges, “you don’t want to lose AMC.”