Rogers Communications and AMC – the home of extremely popular shows such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, The Killing and Hell on Wheels – are in the midst of negotiating new terms for Rogers to carry AMC content. And as we’ve seen with other recent negotiations, most recently between the NHL and the NHLPA, the sticking point is usually money.
This shouldn’t be surprising. AMC delivers a great product and the popularity of its shows has grown exponentially. Therefore, AMC feels it’s fair that they receive more revenue.
However, a trend is now emerging where parties are engaging the court of public opinion far earlier in the negotiation process than ever before. AMC has even started a “Keep AMC in Canada” campaign to enlist their unholy legion of Walking Dead fans to apply pressure on Rogers.
(We ran a preliminary analysis based on tweets collected on Feb. 27, and discovered that The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad are the most popular shows people are tweeting about in relation to Rogers and AMC. The other two shows, The Killing and Hell on Wheels, were mentioned in less than 1 per cent of all tweets).
I was always taught that, ultimately, negotiations are meant to find a deal that’s fair to both parties.
To that end, the key to good negotiations is respect. Without respect the process falls apart and even if a deal ends up getting done, those lingering bad feelings that a lack of respect creates – especially if one party eventually gets the upper hand – eventually comes back to haunt the so-called winning party sometime in the future.
To maintain respect, it’s extremely important that all parties do their best to keep all discussions behind closed doors and avoid negotiating through the media.
But it seems as though something has changed. Not only are parties now negotiating through the media, they’re also enlisting the court of public opinion through social media and the web. Currently, Twitter is abuzz with pro-AMC tweets and Rogers has been forced to fight a PR war on multiple fronts:
On its own Facebook page, Rogers is preaching calm with statements such as: “We have no intention of dropping AMC. We’re surprised and disappointed they would alarm our customers. We are in negotiations and expect a positive outcome.”
But Rogers shouldn’t have been surprised by this, and it should have showed up on their corporate radar via media monitoring and analysis. After all, in the U.S. AMC deployed the same tactic with Dish Network, and also with Verizon.
Has there been a fundamental shift on the rules of negotiations to which we now must adapt?
If so, has a community manager and a good PR team become just as important as a lead negotiator?
If that has in fact become the case, having processes and mechanisms in place to make sure you’re winning that war is just as important as a hard-nosed negotiator and team of lawyers. Just ask the NHL and NHLPA. As the saying goes, those who live by the sword will die by the sword and in the case of the NHL and NHLPA, there were no winners – just a lot of unhappy fans.
Will the same thing happen with Rogers and AMC?