Going Public: Will AMC’s Tactics Keep it on Rogers’ Dial?
February 28, 2013 | Alicia Androich with files from Canadian Press | Comments
It’s admirable to go green. It’s edgy to go rogue. But is it necessary – or advantageous – to go public with broadcast negotiations that traditionally happen behind closed corporate doors?
There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this week about AMC’s surprising choice to create a website bidding Rogers cable subscribers to chime in about the distribution negotiations currently taking place between AMC and Rogers. The “Rogers Customers: You Are About to Lose” website launched last weekend and prompts viewers to contact Rogers to get the media company to keep shows like Mad Med and The Walking Dead on the air in Canada.
Then, on Wednesday, some Rogers customers reported seeing online banner ads with large block letters that said “Rogers Customers You Have Lost The Walking Dead.”
Umm, “have lost?” Past tense? Horse, meet cart. As of press time, Rogers still carries AMC and has stated that it has no plans to take AMC out of its lineup. The deal will reportedly expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.
The KeepAMCCanada.com site also provides a link to email Rogers and a phone hotline, 855-KEEP-AMC, that they can use to “take action.”
Joe Conforzi, a senior buyer at Initiative, is a fan of AMC’s programming but thinks it was wrong of the U.S. company to make its negotiation a public issue. He calls the scrolling message that AMC ran during The Walking Dead on Sunday night “an almost shady approach in attempts to gain leverage for settling a deal with Rogers Communications.”
He added that AMC sending out such ominous messages “was a surprising and somewhat unprofessional tactic.” He said the move could be detrimental to continuing AMC’s relationship with Rogers, but that the guerrilla campaign may force Rogers to hold on to the station.
And while he believes AMC is using viewers’ loyalty to its award-winning shows for a negotiation advantage, despite all the buzz around the quality of some of its shows, he points to BBM statistics that show that “in Canada, not one of their properties are listed within the Top 30 programs for 2013.”
In the end, he doesn’t think Rogers will drop AMC from its station lineup.
(AMC has faced that fate elsewhere before, though. Last year, AMC in the U.S. used a similar campaign in its debacle with Dish Network; Dish dropped the channel for a time.)
Starcom MediaVest Group Canada CEO Bruce Neve hopes that doesn’t happen here – he said he’d like to see AMC and Rogers reach an agreement, calling AMC’s shows The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Mad Men “all great reasons not to cut the cord.” In terms of AMC’s scare tactics, he finds it interesting that social and digital media are becoming part of negotiating tactics during the actual negotiation to both get public support and expose an issue. He likens this public lobbying approach to what’s happened recently with teacher/government negotiations in Ontario and NHL negotiations.
“A subset of key customers will be highly vocal, and social media will amplify that to seem much bigger than it is,” said Neve.
Another senior media executive in Toronto, who asked to remain anonymous, speculates that AMC may have asked Rogers for a significant increase in the fees it gets for its content. If Rogers isn’t agreeing, the executive said, that standstill may be what prompted AMC to take this very public tactic. “They did it because they felt it would move the negotiations in their favour.”
Given the popularity of AMC’s programming, it’s in a uniquely strong position, the executive said. “I don’t think there are many stations that can roll the ball like that… I’m quite sure they’ll get a deal done.”
And, judging by the buzz this negotiation has generated, other broadcast negotiations may start happening with the doors wide open to the public too.
Disclosure: Rogers owns Marketing magazine.