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AMC threatens to pull networks from Verizon FiOS TV homes

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AMC Networks is warning Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS TV subscribers that they will lose AMC, IFC, WE, IFC and Sundance Channel unless the telco agrees to pay increased license fees by Dec. 31.

AMC ran an on-screen crawl Sunday night during one of its most popular original programs, The Walking Dead. But it wasn't running the crawls Tuesday morning during shows that draw fewer viewers, such as Roseanne on WE.

AMC, which has also launched a website to communicate with viewers about the dispute with Verizon, is playing hardball with Verizon by going public with its contract renewal talks. But officials at Verizon insist that subscribers won't lose AMC and its sister networks.

"This is nothing more than a desperate attempt by AMCN to scare our FiOS TV customers into thinking that they will lose their programming," Verizon said in a statement. "We continue to work hard on behalf of our customers, as we negotiate with AMC Networks to reach an agreement that is reasonable and in our customers' best interest. It is unfortunate that AMCN has decided to unnecessarily publicize these discussions, but not surprising as they have a history of using their viewers as pawns in their negotiations with distributors," the company added.

AMC employed similar tactics in its contract dispute with Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) earlier this year. The companies agreed to a new carriage deal in October as part of a settlement of a breach-of-contract dispute. AMC signed a carriage deal with AT&T's (NYSE: T) U-verse TV in July.

Verizon's current AMC contract was signed in 2006, before AMC gained significant popularity from hits such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. The programmer is looking to cash in on the success of its original programming lineup in contract renewals with cable and satellite affiliates.

"AMC Networks is informing our loyal viewers who are Verizon customers that we are in negotiations. Our discussions are ongoing and we are hopeful to reach an agreement with Verizon that recognizes the fair value of our networks," AMC said in a statement.

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