Videotron decides AMC isn’t worth the cost

It didn’t take long after Videotron started informing clients that it was dropping AMC as of Feb. 12 for those clients to start complaining.

I contacted Videotron and asked them why they’re dropping the channel, and their response was about what I expected: They just can’t meet AMC’s carriage demands.

I wrote a short story about the decision for Cartt.ca. For non-subscribers, the previous sentence summarizes Videotron’s reasoning.

It’s too expensive, AMC’s carriage demands (which aren’t just about the per-subscriber fee) are too onerous, and all this for a channel that most of its clients aren’t interested in and whose viewership has been trending downward.

We don’t know exactly what AMC’s demands are, because negotiations and carriage contracts are secret, but it’s likely there was something along the lines of a minimum penetration guarantee or penetration-based rate card, which effectively force a provider to make sure a large number of its clients subscribe to the channel.

For national providers like Bell (Videotron’s main competitor), Rogers and Shaw, AMC’s demands may be more acceptable (though I doubt any of them are happy with the conditions). But for Videotron, which operates in Quebec and has mainly a francophone audience, it looks like it just became too much.

We’ve been here before. Before Videotron finally added AMC in 2013, it was among the most requested channels by subscribers. This was back in the day when AMC’s original series were very hot: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead. Because of AMC’s contract requirements, Videotron had to add it to its most popular large packages — Anglo, Telemax and Mega — despite its high cost.

Five years later, AMC’s biggest shows are The Walking Dead, a Breaking Bad spinoff and Mad Men reruns. Not terribly impressive.

Does it make sense for Videotron to jump through so many hoops to keep this channel in their lineup?

For some customers, this will no doubt be a deal-breaker. Combined with the usual price hikes, they’ll jump ship to Bell, which still carries AMC. Videotron has taken that into account with its decision, and it still makes more sense to let AMC go.

And don’t think this is some negotiation tactic, either. AMC has all the power in this relationship, with a billion dollars in annual revenue and more than 90 million subscribers to its flagship channel in the U.S. It won’t care that much about losing a few thousand subscribers in Quebec. And besides, subscribers will blame Videotron for this, not AMC, unless Videotron says exactly what AMC was demanding, which it can’t because of confidentiality agreements.

Ideally, it wouldn’t have to be this way. In 2015, with its Wholesale Code, the CRTC made it illegal for broadcasters to impose abusive penetration-based rates or minimum revenue guarantees. But AMC is an American channel, and doesn’t have to answer to the CRTC. Though the commission said it “expects” foreign channels to abide by the same rules, and said it could use its powers to, for example, make authorization for distribution in Canada conditional upon accepting the same rules, it has yet to step in when it comes to a foreign channel’s distribution agreement.

(AMC Networks also owns IFC and the Sundance channel, but the versions of those distributed in Canada are actually Canadian channels owned by Corus, which must follow the CRTC’s rules.)

It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. We’ll see if other Canadian providers decide they too are fed up with AMC. The same year Videotron finally added AMC, Telus was so annoyed by their negotiation tactics that it sued in a U.S. court, and negotiations with Rogers got so bad that AMC started a campaign aimed at Rogers customers. If enough of them reject it, and AMC risks being shut out of Canada, it might change its demands. But what are the chances of enough Canadian providers being willing to alienate their own customers?

25 thoughts on “Videotron decides AMC isn’t worth the cost

  1. Richard Kruk

    Don’t forget Walking Dead spin-off, FEAR The Walking Dead on AMC. I switched to Bell for reasons like this years ago. 5 Years ago Bell’s customer Service was horrible compared to Videotron’s but good thing is now with Fibe everything is automated, you control your channel choice and Bill simply by signing in on your tablet or device of choice and rearranging your package at will and it’s reasonably flexible.

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  2. mikelbyl

    It’s too bad – Videotron is always behind on something, but at least the things I cared about (Select your provider…) they were getting better than ever. But this is a non-negotiable channel – I’ve gotta go.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Maybe AMC should just offer an over-the-top streaming service for Canadians and skip the cable networks?

      Why bother when you have the cable companies by the nads and suck millions in subscription fees from people whether or not they want your channel?

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  3. William

    I’m cutious about something. Videotron’s Anglo, Telemax and Mega packages don’t appear anywhere on their website (I couldn’t find them, anyway). I know that their Anglo and Telemax packages are available, because I subscribe to them. Last month in the community forum on Videotron’s website someone asked about the Mega package. Videotron replied that the Mega package was available, but the person needed to contact Videotron for a list of the channels included. They also said that the Mega package was the biggest package that Videotron offered. The Mega package is $64. Videotron’s Absolute package is $78.95. Do you get more in the Mega package than the Absolute package for $15 less? Doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t Videotron list all of their available packages on their website? There’s no way I can compare packages so that I can get what I want for the price I want if some of the packages are hidden away.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m cutious about something. Videotron’s Anglo, Telemax and Mega packages don’t appear anywhere on their website (I couldn’t find them, anyway).

      These are all grandfathered packages, which means that if you already have them, you keep them, but new customers are being directed toward the new pick-your-own-channels packages. I believe Mega is an exception, because there are clients that want a package with everything, and Mega has all non-premium channels in it, but it’s not advertised.

      Videotron says this is for simplicity’s sake, but I personally think they should consider having large theme packs and trust that their customers will figure it out.

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      1. Jonathan Bates

        You can pick up the Sportsfan or the All-In package and add some channels , example 20 more for 18 dollars. Probably the most cost-effective if you are not interested by the MEGA.

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      2. William

        Ah, so that’s why Telemax and Anglo don’t show up on Videotron’s website.

        Mega includes all of the non-premium channels? I was wondering why Mega was $64 and Absolute was $78.95. Looking closer at Videotron’s website I see that Mega lets you choose 30 non-premium channels, plus 2 premium channels. So I guess you’re paying for the 2 premium channels.

        Yes, I agree, it’d be good if Videotron had some large theme packages, like they used to have when I picked the Telemax and Anglo packages.

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  4. Joy

    After 20 loyal years with Videotron….it’s time to leave. I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, and Better Call Saul and I’m not willing to give them up. I spoke with Bell yesterday and they assured me they have no plans to drop AMC. I would be willing to pay more to have AMC on Videotron but apparently that’s not an option so off to Bell I go.

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    1. Jonathan Bates

      Front-Line Bell customer reps would never know if they plan to drop AMC but a 2-3 weeks in adavance more or less. These kind of informations are very sensitive, as already explained in the initial post.

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  5. Louie DePalma

    My friend has never forgiven Videotron for freezing out MTV (at least I think it was them) and forcing MuchMusic/Musique Plus down our throats. He stays with Bell – as awful as they are – as a result. Too funny.

    But he has a point. MTV was a serious generational thing and Canadians….missed it. Just like ESPN when it mattered back in the late 80s and 90s.

    Thank God for the Internet and everything else in between. Hopefully one day the CRTC will disappear too.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My friend has never forgiven Videotron for freezing out MTV (at least I think it was them) and forcing MuchMusic/Musique Plus down our throats.

      Videotron carries MTV Canada on channel 119, and MTV2 on channel 114. Both are available à la carte and part of a choose-your-own package. Unless he means the U.S. feed of MTV, but that’s not authorized for distribution in Canada, so neither Videotron nor Bell could carry it.

      Similarly, ESPN can’t be carried in Canada, both because it’s not authorized by the CRTC and because ESPN does not have the Canadian rights to most of its programming.

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      1. Louie DePalma

        Thanks for the reply. His memory is longer than that. He means from the 1980s – Kennedy’s MTV. So if I understand you correctly, even if VT wanted the REAL MTV from the U.S., we couldn’t get it?

        Again. I can only say good riddance to the CRTC and hello to what the Internet can offer Canadians in terms of programming choice. I can pick what I like thank you very much.

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          So if I understand you correctly, even if VT wanted the REAL MTV from the U.S., we couldn’t get it?

          That is correct.

          I can only say good riddance to the CRTC and hello to what the Internet can offer Canadians in terms of programming choice.

          You can’t watch MTV online either, and that’s not because of the CRTC. It’s because MTV sells the Canadian rights to its programming to Bell Media, which gets to exclusively monetize it in both TV and online formats.

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  6. dilbert

    It’s one of the things from the US that is sort of painful to watch. Channels like this often price themselves out of the market place, raising their rates without limits. In the US cable rates to consumers have nearly doubled in 10 years, which is one of the contributing factors to the concepts of cord cutting. The solution for many channels is (oddly) to raise rates some more to make back the money lost by cord cutters, giving a whole new group the urge to cut the cord.

    AMC really doesn’t seem to understand that in a market like Quebec, the take up rate for a specialty english channel is going to be remarkably low. In a world of skinny basic and cord cutters, expecting it to be higher than a few percentage points naturally is fooling yourself.

    It’s one of the rare situations where Bell has an advantage.

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  7. Emmanuelle

    Yeah. Got my letter this morning. I didn’t mind paying extra to get AMC. I watch that channel a lot. I would switch to Rogers but their tv services aren’t available in Quebed AFAIK. Please correct me if I’m wrong because I’ll jump ships before you can say “see ya”! Other than that my only option is Bell, and unless they offer me free tv for 5 years, there is no chance they’ll get my business.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would switch to Rogers but their tv services aren’t available in Quebed AFAIK.

      That’s correct. Rogers doesn’t have a cable network here. In greater Montreal, your options are Videotron, Bell Fibe, Shaw Direct (satellite), or one of the smaller independent providers like Colba.Net, VMedia or Zazeen.

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      1. Btett

        It’s even worse if your in Kahnawake. Your options for television are Shaw, Bell sattalite and local community cable company Paul’s Cable. Paul’s among the worst of the choices.

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  8. Anonymous

    That sucks…I was looking forward to another season of Better Call Saul, and with this news today of AMC being withdrawn from Videotron, I was given notice of a $7 rate increase with no value add attached such as more anglo HD channels….

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  9. mikelbyl

    i’ve signed up for Bell’s over-the-top service, Alt TV. We’ll see how that goes.Lots of channels via my existing Apple TV and a fast unlimited internet service. Should be OK.

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  10. E. Leclerc

    Videotron clearly don’t care about customers. And they have the audacity to say they are sorry !!! I not only watch Walking Dead, but Fear the Walking Dead and Preacher. I’am beyond mad about the decision. If their biggest competitor had a better customer service I would switch immediately. I hope many people cancel their subscription with Videotron.

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  11. djifiji

    I literally just got setup with them for TV and that was my only add-on… what a joke, I guess this time I’m cutting the cord for good (that excludes internet streaming right?).

    Reply

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