Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The court calendar in AMC Networks Inc.’s $2.4 billion lawsuit against Dish Network Corp. over a scuttled programming deal had an Oct. 22 entry for a “poss. settlement.”
The entry in the calendar posted today indicated that the two sides were scheduled to return to court on that date for a “poss. settlement.” The entry was changed to “adj. for briefing” later in the day.
Cablevision Systems Corp., AMC’s former owner, sued Dish in New York state court in Manhattan in 2008 over a now-defunct HD satellite TV service called Voom, claiming Dish breached a 15-year contract to offer the service to about 14 million TV subscribers. AMC rested its case Oct. 12 and Dish has been presenting its evidence to the jurors.
Orin Snyder, a lawyer for AMC, and Charles Kerr, a lawyer for Dish, didn’t immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment on a possible settlement. A call to the chambers of State Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe, who is presiding over the trial, wasn’t immediately returned.
Bob Toevs, a spokesman for Englewood, Colorado-based Dish, declined to comment today. Georgia Juvelis, a spokeswoman for New York-based AMC, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Dish said it terminated the Voom contract because Cablevision didn’t spend the required $100 million a year on programming. Cablevision claimed that Voom spent $103 million in 2006. Dish said that figure included corporate overhead expenses of at least $12 million and that the contract stipulated that the money be spent on programming.
A trial in the case began last month. The jury was sent home yesterday and proceedings were set to resume on Oct. 22, with Dish Chairman Charles Ergen scheduled to testify. The trial was expected to last another week.
Charles Dolan, the chairman of both Cablevision and AMC, was AMC’s first witness. Cablevision, based in Bethpage, New York, spun off AMC Networks, formerly known as Rainbow Media, as a separate publicly owned company last year. Dolan family members remain the controlling shareholders in AMC.
After the trial began, Dish was accused again by AMC of withholding evidence. Dish argued that the communications at issue were between an attorney and his client and should be protected from disclosure. Lowe ordered that the documents be presented to him. Dish appealed and lost.
The trial’s implications go beyond the damages AMC and Cablevision would share if victorious. It may determine whether Dish viewers will again see AMC shows such as “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Breaking Bad.” Dish dropped AMC’s four channels from its system in July, saying that its shows didn’t deliver the ratings to justify their price.
AMC claims the move stemmed from the lawsuit, while Dish has maintained it had nothing to do with the litigation.
There’s potential for AMC to return to Dish, Ergen said in an interview earlier this month. Dish has no interest in bringing back AMC’s other networks -- IFC, Sundance Channel and WE tv -- because of low ratings, he said.
The case is Voom v. Echostar, 600292-2008, State Supreme Court of New York (Manhattan).
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