Shentel could cut ‘The Walking Dead’

After contract renewal disputes, Shentel may not provide its cable customers with AMC channels starting in 2016.

The network and cable company would be transitioning from one multi-year contract into another, according to Shentel Vice President of Industry Relations and Regulatory Chris Kyle.

Going into 2016, AMC’s contract proposal would require that Shentel carry additional channels Sundance and BBC World and put all its channels on Shentel’s Advanced package. Along with a rate increase, AMC’s contract stipulations mean that Shentel would be paying the network more than three times as much to offer its channels under those conditions.

The rate increase is coming at the height of popularity for “The Walking Dead” – and just after the show’s mid-season finale. Other popular programming on the network includes “Breaking Bad” spinoff series “Better Call Saul” and “Into the Badlands,” whose season premiere on Nov. 15 attracted more than 6 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

“We know that the AMC channel itself has popular programming, but outside those programs the content is weak,” Kyle stated in a news  release. “The secondary channels are not popular and adding them to our lineup could impact our ability to enhance broadband capacity.”

In Shenandoah County, AMC and WE are both covered in Shentel’s Advanced package and IFC in its Ultimate package. Although AMC Networks also provides BBC channels, Shentel will continue to offer BBC America under a separate contract that is not set to expire before 2016.

Kyle said the company has told AMC that a reasonable contract wouldn’t require Shentel to carry channels or offer them in a certain customer package. He also said Shentel isn’t the only company to have reacted to the network’s demands.

“There’s a consortium of a lot of small cable companies doing this exact same thing,” he said.

If the contract isn’t renewed and the channels are dropped, cable TV customers will be seeing a small decrease in their monthly bills reflecting the cost of those channels starting in 2016. Kyle said those customers that will sorely miss “The Walking Dead” as the current season continues into the new year would be able to catch it through alternate digital methods with the money they’ll save from Shentel. He said there are no current plans to replace those channels.

Confidentiality is part of Shentel’s contract with AMC, so Kyle said he couldn’t quote specific dollar figures. If Shentel would agree to AMC’s contract proposal, he said the cost for Shentel customers “would not have been insignificant … we’re not talking change.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com