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Rogers says talks continue with AMC as contract set to expire late Thursday

TORONTO – Negotiations were still ongoing between Rogers and AMC Thursday as the cable television provider ran against an approaching deadline to renew its distribution contract with the U.S.-based channel, home to “The Walking Dead” and other popular series.

Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott said the company remained in talks with AMC with the goal of reaching a deal before the deadline of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

At that point, it would be possible that AMC could kill the signal for its channel, which also airs the shows “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.”

Rogers has said it had no intentions of removing AMC from its cable lineup, even if an agreement is not reached by the deadline.

Both sides, who have been in negotiations over the past few months, have spent much of the week in a public spat over the contract renewal.

On Wednesday, some Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) customers reported that online banner advertisements told them “You Have Lost The Walking Dead” or “Rogers Customers You May Lose The Walking Dead,” even though the channel had not disappeared from the Rogers lineup.

The banner ads were linked to a website set up by AMC which urged fans to email and call Rogers to save AMC in Canada.

The current negotiations are only in relation to Rogers’ relationship with AMC, and customers with other television providers were not expected to be affected.

This isn’t the first time AMC has been embroiled in a conflict with cable and satellite providers.

Last summer, the channel grappled with U.S. carrier Dish Network pulling it from its lineup after a distribution agreement expired, and the two sides couldn’t settle on renegotiated fees.

After months of conflict, Dish and AMC reached a new distribution agreement, but Dish also decided to bump the channel into the hinterlands of its TV line-up in high 9,000 channels.

Meanwhile, a similar dispute is playing out in the U.S. this week between carrier Cable One and AMC over its distribution contract.

A website sprung up that’s nearly identical to the one AMC setup for Rogers. On the site, AMC told Cable One’s subscribers that they too could lose the channel.

Cable One has responded by saying that AMC is trying to hike the fees it charges the cable provider by 520 per cent. The company did not disclose how much it was paying for the channel under its previous agreement.

Over the past five years, AMC has morphed from a cable channel that showed almost exclusively modern classic movies like “Top Gun” and “Unforgiven” into a creator of original TV series that become popular water cooler topics.

“The Walking Dead” is considered the most-watched show in U.S. cable television history.

The higher ratings have been a boon to AMC, which airs commercials on its programming. The company reported that ad revenues increased 16 per cent to US$157 million in the fourth quarter.