In the first draft of my story, I’d written “more than two years.” In fact, it’s been more than three. More than three years since Bell TV and Shaw Direct added the U.S. pay TV channel AMC to their lineups in the fall of 2009.
It was back in the fall of 2010 that Bill Brownstein wrote a column in The Gazette about the anger Videotron’s customers have had over the lack of access to the channel.
Now, finally, the long wait for the channel that brings us Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead is almost over. Videotron announced on Thursday, during a press conference to launch its new Netflix-like service, that it is adding AMC to its TV lineup within the next few days.
It was almost a passing reference, a by-the-way mention by Videotron President of Consumer Market Manon Brouillette while she did a demo of the video-on-demand service. Compared to the written press releases I was given announcing upgrades to Internet speeds and the fact that its next-generation Illico boxes had reached 500,000 subscribers, the AMC announcement was remarkably low-key.
AMC has been, by a long shot, the most requested new channel among Videotron’s clients (a quick check of their Facebook page or Twitter mentions can confirm this), and it’s been clear for months now that they have been trying to negotiate a deal to carry the network.
Brouillette was vague with me when I asked why it took so long, saying that Videotron is a regional player and there were financial issues. Whether it’s that AMC demanded too high a per-subscriber wholesale rate or something else like a high minimum penetration rate, we might never know. But now they have it, and Brouillette made it clear through both her words and her body language that this was a long, difficult process that has finally come to a happy end.
There’s no exact launch date yet, but it should be some time within the next two weeks, Brouillette said. AMC will launch in SD, HD as well as on demand. Packaging and pricing details are also not known (she said she wanted to wait until launch to announce them), but as a pay TV service I would not expect it to be cheap.
With the sixth season of Mad Men starting on April 7, fans of the show on Videotron will be able to watch it as it airs. For fans of The Walking Dead, whose third season is airing now, the launch date can’t come fast enough.
It’s here, and it’s everywhere
UPDATE (March 1): AMC is now live, on channel 209 in SD and 809 in HD.
It’s being added to the following packages:
- Superstations (KTLA, WGN etc.)
- The Movie Network (which also includes HBO Canada and FX Canada)
It’s not being added à la carte.
The fact that it’s in so many preassembled packages but not à la carte suggests that AMC demanded a high penetration rate as well as a high wholesale cost. This would explain why Videotron took so long to come to a deal. Unlike its competitors, Videotron offers à la carte selection of channels, and it’s not a fan of forcing channels (particularly expensive English-language ones) on all its customers.
The channel is on a free preview until May 31. It’s also available on demand on Channel 900. Right now that channel has just the three latest episodes of The Walking Dead (in SD), for fans to catch up before this week’s episode. The VOD channel is free for anyone with AMC, including those just benefitting from the free preview.