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Dish, AT&T Threaten To Drop AMC Channels As Fee Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch

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NEW YORK (AP) — Satellite broadcaster Dish Network Corp. on Friday said it would replace AMC Networks Inc.'s channels with HDNet channels at midnight on Saturday, ratcheting up a fee dispute.

Dish, the third-largest provider of pay-TV signals in the U.S., had earlier said it would drop AMC's channels because they're too expensive. Such "retransmission disputes" between pay-TV companies and TV channels often result in channels being temporarily dropped. They usually end with the parties reaching agreement on fees.

The new season of "Breaking Bad," a hit AMC show, premieres on July 15. Other hit AMC shows are "Mad Men" and "The Walking Dead."

AT&T Inc., the eighth-largest provider of pay-TV signals, has also said it's dropping AMC at midnight on Saturday.

AMC said the real reason Dish is playing hard-ball is that it wants to retaliate for a lawsuit Voom HD, an indirect subsidiary of AMC, filed against Dish for dropping it. The trial itself has not started, but a judge has ruled that Dish destroyed evidence in the case.

AMC has started a campaign that prompts viewers to email Dish and AT&T to tell them to keep the channels.

Dish is replacing the eponymous AMC channel plus sister channels WE and IFC with HDNet Movies, Style and HDNet.

"AMC Networks requires us to carry low-rated channels like IFC and WE to access a few popular AMC shows. The math is simple: it's not a good value for our customers," said Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish.

AMC Networks further devalues its programming by making its handful of popular shows available via iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.com, Dish said.

Dish shares closed Thursday trading at $27.55, down about 3 percent for the year. The stock was not trading premarket.

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