It started today with a note on the New York State Supreme Court’s website that says there’s a “possible settlement” in the case when the trial resumes on Monday. That was enough to drive up stocks for AMC Networks (+3.9%) and Cablevision (+4.3%) — the companies that filed a $2.4B breach of contract suit against Dish Network following its 2008 decision to drop the now-defunct VOOM suite of HD channels. The settlement hopes also contributed to a 4.8% jump in Dish shares. Investors are eager to see AMC’s channels return to Dish, which dropped them in June, and for the satellite company to be free of the threat of a courtroom loss that is starting to look inevitable following a string of embarrassing revelations that suggest it tried to hide evidence that it feared might hurt its case. “In the context of the $2.4 billion in damages originally sought, we believe a cash settlement could be worth between $200 million and $1 billion…equating to $1-$4 per share in aftertax cash consideration” for AMC,” Barclays Equity Research’s Anthony DiClemente says. He adds, though, that “the amount of a potential cash consideration is less important than the value of a new carriage deal.” Without Dish’s 14.1M subscribers, AMC could lose much as $100M per year in cash flow. “Assuming a 7 year deal, we estimate carriage would be worth $7 per share” for AMC, DiClemente says.
The trial was to determine whether Dish had the right in 2008 to terminate its 15-year deal to air the VOOM Networks suite of HD channels. The channels, formerly owned by Cablevision, were packaged with AMC when the cable company spun off the network operation last year.