AMC and DISH have been playing a bitter game of mutual brinksmanship all month long. First, Dish Network banished AMC and its sibling-networks IFC and WE down to the lower reaches of the dial. Then, AMC used the overflowing gravitas of Don Draper to tell everyone that DISH was being totes lame. This was all in good fun, we thought, just the way that media companies do business. But today, DISH implemented the nuclear option: The company announced that, as of 11:59 p.m. tomorrow, AMC Networks will be eradicated from the DISH universe. That means AMC, WE, and IFC will all be gone, although the press release is quick to point out that AMC will be replaced by HDNet Movies. Now, while HDNet Movies does not currently carry two of the greatest TV shows ever made, it is playing Simon Birch tonight. Twice.

The source of the DISH/AMC turmoil is a classic bit of he-said/he-said. DISH insists that AMC has been asking for a rate increase that is not commensurate with the network’s actual ratings; in turn, AMC has been claiming that DISH is upset about a $2.5 billion lawsuit that an AMC subsidiary filed against the cable provider. When reached for comment, a representative for DISH described the decision in purely economic terms: “The channels that AMC networks are forcing us to deliver just don’t give our customers the best content at the best value. It’s important to be able to offer the right equation to our customers.”

Meanwhile, AMC Networks has released an official statement to the press regarding DISH’s decision:

It is unfortunate that, in retaliation for an unrelated lawsuit, DISH is punishing its customers by dropping AMC Networks. DISH customers can no longer watch popular, critically acclaimed series, including the July 15 season premiere of AMC’s Breaking Bad, and upcoming and future seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels and Mad Men.

The move to eliminate AMC comes at an auspicious moment. Next weekend, AMC is hosting a “preview weekend” for their successful zombie series The Walking Dead, including a first look at season 3; the following week features the aforementioned season premiere of Breaking Bad. Is DISH concerned about any blowback from AMC’s fans? “There are some very popular programs on there,” says the DISH rep, “But we are looking at the big picture.”

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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Breaking Bad

Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.

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