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Don Draper and Zombies Come to Web TV: In a Surprising Move, Dish's Sling TV Adds AMC

The $20-a-month service comes out of beta, gets more interesting.

Michael Yarish/AMC
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Dish’s Sling TV, the low-cost cable-TV-on-the-Web experiment, just got a little more interesting: The service is adding the AMC network, the channel that delivers cable hits like “Mad Men” and the “Walking Dead.”

Dish says AMC will be included in its basic $20-a-month service, which debuted in beta form last month and opened to the public today.

AMC isn’t there yet but will be added “soon,” according to a Dish press release, which doesn’t make it clear whether Dish will also add other channels owned by AMC Networks, including IFC and and BBC America, into its basic package, or whether some of those channels will be available as add-ons.

Regardless, news that AMC is joining a Web TV service — particularly one with the potential to siphon off some regular pay-TV viewers — in any form is surprising.

That’s because AMC Networks is controlled by the Dolan family, which owns Cablevision, the small but prominent pay-TV provider based in the New York area. And for years, industry executives, including ones who works at AMC Networks, have assumed the programmer would be one of the least likely to venture out of the traditional pay-TV structure.

So perhaps there’s some shift in the Dolan’s family thinking here. And/or they’ve convinced themselves that Sling TV will primarily attract millennials who have never subscribed to pay TV, instead of attracting people who want to cut the cord. Then again, adding “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead” to the programming mix will make it that much more attractive to cord-cutters.

Most of the other networks that Dish has signed for Sling TV, like Disney/ESPN, have come aboard as Dish renegotiated traditional distribution agreements for its 14 million satellite subscribers.

Since AMC Networks and Dish had already re-upped a couple of years ago, I’m assuming today’s announcement means the two companies have also worked out some other stuff behind the scenes. But no word from either of them, for now.

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