Lynette Rice
July 09, 2010 AT 11:29 PM EDT

A contract dispute between AMC parent Rainbow Media and AT&T’s U-Verse could prevent some 2.3 million customers from tuning into the July 25 return of the Emmy-winning Mad Men. U-Verse’s contract with Rainbow – which provides AMC, IFC and WE to the broadband TV operator – expired July 1 but a contract extension was granted until July 14 so the two sides can iron out a deal. But talks have stalled, so much that Rainbow and U-Verse have begun warning viewers that the networks could go dark before Don Draper stages his comeback.

“It is troubling that AT&T is threatening to yank AMC, WE tv and IFC, and leave their customers without the hottest show on television, AMC’s Mad Men, just before the premiere of the new season. AT&T is acting in an aggressive manner that puts their corporate interests ahead of their customers,” according to an AMC Statement. “We are negotiating in good faith with AT&T and are hopeful that we can reach an agreement as soon as possible so that our viewers don’t lose out.”

U-Verse followed up with a statement of their own: “We’re willing to continue to work toward reaching a fair agreement, but frankly, we seem to be at an impasse with Rainbow so we’re starting to let customers know that Rainbow may force us to remove their channels from our lineup on July 14. We want to reach a fair deal for our customers that reflects our growing subscriber base and that reflects the appropriate value of Rainbow content. Based on aggregate data we obtained from third party industry sources and our own subscribers, some of the Rainbow channels are among the least-watched and most overpriced per viewer compared to other major programming providers. They’re also trying to force the renegotiation of a contract for one of their other channels that is not yet expired and force us to carry a new channel that wasn’t even formally presented to us until after the recent July 1 contract extension.

“We want our customers to know that we can’t and won’t give in to unreasonable deals that unfairly disadvantage our customers. However, if a fair agreement isn’t reached by July 14, Rainbow could require us to remove their programming to try to force us into an unfair deal. This is about protecting our customers and representing their interests to get the content they really want at a fair price.”

Mad Men scored multiple Emmy nominations on Thursday, including another one for Outstanding Drama.

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