Dish Network Says Ranchers, Farmers Don't Care About AMC, So We Asked Real Ranchers, Farmers

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen defended dropping AMC in an earnings call Wednesday and claimed critically acclaimed AMC shows such as "Mad Men," "Walking Dead," and "Breaking Bad" don't matter to Dish's "rural" types.

The ongoing dispute between AMC and Dish Network took a confusing turn this week when Dish chairman Charlie Ergen invited another party into the fold: rural America.

In an earnings call Wednesday, Ergen lambasted the supposed popularity of AMC, which features hit TV shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, especially among "rural" demographics. Dish's 14.1 million subscribers have not had access to AMC's various networks since July 1, when the contract between the two companies expired. AMC believes the spat was caused by its $2.5 billion breach-of-contract suit against Dish, while Ergen charged that it relates to AMC's high rates and irrelevance to rural customers. Whatever the true cause, Ergen's comments could come across as insulting to many of the company's own subscribers.

"Our customers are not looking at zombies in New York City," Ergen said, referring to AMC's The Walking Dead (which actually has been set in Atlanta and more rural parts of Georgia, then on a ... farm). "They live in farms and ranches ... We have data, real data from our customers. And for whatever reason, our customers don't watch some of those critically acclaimed channels at the level that we read about in the paper, perhaps because we skew a bit rural or whatever."

Ergen, who also boasted during the call that he's "got a house in rural America," added, "I've had satellite television for as long as satellite television has been around, and there's never been one minute that I know of that anybody in my family or anybody who's came to my house has ever watched one second of any of those channels."

In an apparent reference to AMC's recent stunt in New York City--part of its viral marketing campaign against Dish--Ergen said of the farmers and ranchers, "They have no clue about zombies in New York City marching around saying, 'Where is my AMC?'"

The implication--that rural subscribers are somehow disconnected or disinterested in "critically acclaimed channels" like AMC or shows like The Walking Dead--is difficult to understand. Not long after the earnings call, Business Insider blared the headline, "Dish CEO says customers don't care about AMC because they live on 'farms and ranches.'" Multiple requests to Dish for clarification of Ergen's comments were not immediately returned.

Still, however Ergen's comments might be misinterpreted, there's no question his generalizations regarding rural customers not giving a hoot about AMC or Mad Men could be perceived as antagonistic. It's hard to fathom why the network's Emmy-winning roster of shows, some recently boasting record ratings like The Walking Dead's 9-million-viewer finale, would somehow be unpopular on rural farms and ranches. "People here watch all the same shows that everybody else does. One of my guys I think is really into Mad Men and my wife watches it sometimes; I just don't have time to watch much TV," says one ranch manager in southeast Colorado who asked not to be identified. "You know, I've got a whole crew of guys all over this ranch that have bachelor's or master's degrees in philosophy, biology, or history. Yet someone will show up here and think we're all a bunch of ignorant idiots. If we don't watch those shows, it's probably cause we're too smart to or because we ignore popular culture."

Another farm worker in Missouri was equally as miffed by the implications of the Dish chair's comments. "We are not far out in the sticks," said the farm worker, who does not watch TV. "But we still get lots of, 'Oh, they must wear overalls and straw in their hats.'"

The Colorado farm rancher wasn't too phased by the comments though. "We're so used to it that it doesn't bug us," he says.

One industry source involved with the matter says there's no significant difference between the interests of urban and rural demographics when it comes to shows like Mad Men. "There is limited distinction," the source says.

And despite whatever Ergen may have meant by his comments, the source disputes whether the battle between Dish and AMC is even over the latter's alleged unpopularity in rural markets.

"Some of [Dish]'s most deeply penetrated areas are markets like Los Angeles and New York," the source says. "The implication that all of their customers live on ranches or farms or whatever I think is misguided."

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13 Comments

  • Korn_4_eternity06

    Do people not understand that is why rates go up. For every TV provider. Direct TV lost viacom for a few weeks, 20 plus channels and they made an agreement that will raise prices over the next 5 years. What dish is trying to do is keep rates low, and companies like amc networks only give options to take all or nothing thus packaging happens. We need to start taking action against these owners of the channels, it's not only dish going through this. We all need to sign the petition to fight against those increases.

  • Perrycoresident

    AMC also likes to show cowboy shows on Saturday mornings? I'm sure rural people and ranchers don't care for that either? I think Dish better settle this thing quick.

  • Cindyirene59

    I like HELL ON WHEELS also. I worked at Dish and it is all about the money that goes in Ergen's pocket. He is not for his customers. Rural people are who work for him so how can he say they do not watch such shows and imply that we are not wanting those shows. We are busy working and want to be able to watch what we want to pay for and not a lot of infomercial channels that is worthless. 

  • sam

    I would also like the option to choose what I want to watch..as soon as my contract expires..I say good bye to Dish Network...really a shame, !

  • Montana Hick (not!)

    I live in Montana - can't get much more rural - and I just dropped DISH in favor of the local cable company.

  • Susan Launer

    A Channel with so many great shows. It is ashame I'll have to dump my dish maybe if alot of us did the same dish would get the message

  • Ken Hofmann

    oh yeah I can't watch hell on wheels or walking dead (which is more about society and the relationships that occur when it breaks down than zombies) but I can pay for the 100 channels of infomercials like P90x till I wanna puke coat hangers. As soon as my contract is up Direct TV will have a new customer just cause those greedy bastards won't pony up. Hey give me a choice, raise my rates by a buck and let me pick what I want to watch, GFY dish!

  • MIKEJD2

    how come i have to pay for spanish programs that i don'twatch or need. guess i'll go back to direct tv. i'm in rural nc and would like to watch amc. these big ex's need to listen to people instead of worrying on how much they can put in their wallets. GREEDY CORPS !!!

  • Hburns

    I think Dish chairman Ergen's comments are ignorant! I live in rural Florida near Daytona Beach & my favorite AMC show is Hell On Wheels. I also watch WE & other AMC shows when I can. I've been a Dish subscriber for 12 years, but it's becoming obvious that they don't care about their customers! HELLO DIRECT TV!!!!

  • jdittes

    I just don't understand why Dish & other cable/satellite providers can't just let folks pick the channels they want. I watch "Hell on Wheels," so it's probably worth the 50 cents of my monthly cable bill that goes to AMC, but what about these other hundred channels I never watch, yet stil have to pay for?