Without notice, Google Fiber added the popular channel AMC — home to “The Walking Dead” and other hit shows — to its TV lineup in the Kansas City market on Tuesday.
The channel’s absence had long been a gripe of Google Fiber customers. It had deterred some in the market not to sign up for Google’s ultra-fast internet connections and prompted others to try it and leave.
The addition to Google Fiber fills a gaping hole that has existed since the internet and TV service launched its high-speed data network in late 2012.
Google won customers from the old-guard cable companies and telecoms primarily by promising virtually instantaneous downloads over its fiber optic network. It teamed that fast internet service with TV programming subscriptions because customers had grown accustomed to packages that bundled internet hookups with television programming.
While Google offered a bargain on the internet side — speeds only some of the competition can match at prices far lower than previously available for such rich broadband — many were bummed at the channel lineup.
The biggest complaints came from the absence of AMC.
AMC Networks owns a handful of cable channels, some known for their prestige offerings. AMC, for instance, won critical praise and a growing audience with such hit shows as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” AMC Networks also owns IFC, Sundance TV and WE.
AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE also began appearing Tuesday among the channels transmitted to Kansas City customers with basic service, which costs $120 a month, or $130 a month for TV and internet service, depending on when the customer signed up.
All the new channels are in the basic TV package, Google Fiber said. They are available in all Google Fiber cities.
Shortly after it began selling TV service, Google offered hope for those jonesing for AMC programs. It said it was negotiating. Then it worked to lower expectations, conceding no deal was imminent.
Speculating on why AMC was missing from the Google Fiber lineup last week, before the channel was added, cable industry analyst Steve Effros said Google likely lacked leverage with the network because it has relatively few customers compared to the national competition.
That means that AMC could ask top dollar for the right to carry its programming and remain in a position to walk away from talks if Google wouldn’t agree.
“If it finally shows up (on Google Fiber) it’s hard to say who flinched,” said Effros, a former president of the Cable Telecommunications Association. “Google is getting larger in their video distribution. … That can change the dynamics.”
Google Fiber, which now sells internet and TV service in five markets, is promising to do so in five more and is exploring the possibility of expanding to several more markets, although it typically only goes to cities where local officials waive much of the usual regulatory barriers to construction.
AMC fans will probably be delighted after expressing initial disappointment at the channel’s absence.
“This is a major letdown,” one person had written on a Google Fiber online forum.
“Totally bummed,” wrote another.
And another: “I will not be getting Fiber TV until AMC is offered as a channel in the lineup. I, and many others, don’t mind paying a little extra for this one channel. Come on … try harder.”