A+E Networks Chief Warns Of Possible AT&T Blackout, Says AT&T Uses “New Position To Gain An Unfair Advantage For Their Own Channels”

UPDATED with AT&T’s response. Another cable network group is facing a potential blackout on AT&T platforms, including DirecTV. A month after Viacom was able to hammer out a new carriage agreement with AT&T after very tough negotiations, averting a blackout, A+E Networks find itself in a similar position.

In an internal memo sent today, Paul Buccieri, President of A+E Networks Group, which includes A&E Network, History and Lifetime, gives his team an update on the talks with AT&T. “We are in the midst of (a) negotiation with AT&T, which owns DirecTV, and with our contract deadline approaching, we are still far apart from reaching a deal.”

The two companies’ current carriage agreement expires Tuesday. In his letter, Buccieri accuses the newly bulked-up AT&T for the impasse.

“While I have respect for them and our long-standing relationship, AT&T has not demonstrated a willingness to negotiate reasonably,” Buccieri wrote. “The deal we are seeking is based on the same fair market terms that have allowed us to reach deals with numerous other providers. AT&T simply has not yet demonstrated that they recognize the value of our programming and the high regard we have for our viewers – including AT&T’s own customers.”

This is the second very difficult carriage negotiation AT&T is conducting with a cable group since the company closed its acquisition of WarnerMedia. The first one with Viacom went though an extension as a deal could not be made by the original deadline. Buccieri raised concern about AT&T using its size as an unfair advantage over smaller cable groups.

“Having recently acquired WarnerMedia, AT&T appears intent on using their new position to gain an unfair advantage for their own channels,” Buccieri said. “Many, including the U.S. Department of Justice, were concerned that AT&T would have the ability and incentive to discriminate against programmers like A+E Networks and others like us. It seems that concern has become a reality.”

In response to A+E Networks’ letter, AT&T issued a statement:

We’re disappointed to see A&E put our customers in the middle of their negotiations. We are on the side of customer choice and value and want to keep these channels in our customers’ lineups. We hope to avoid any interruption to these channels that some of our customers care about.

Our goal is always to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We’ve always fought to get the best deal for our customers, delivering the content they want at a great value. We’ll continue to fight for that here.

 Here is Buccieri’s full note:

Dear Team,

Sorry to interrupt your weekend, but, I wanted you to hear this from me directly.

Every day, thanks to your creativity, talent and dedication, our networks deliver some of the best programming on television and serve audiences in unique and thoughtful ways. Whether it’s giving women a voice like the recent Surviving R. Kelly; building transparency around law enforcement through Live PD or any number of the groundbreaking HISTORY series—like The Curse of Oak Island or Project Blue Book—the A+E Networks brand of storytelling is distinctive for our viewers. Consumers have more options than ever, and they choose us by the millions because they find programming and community around our content that is meaningful and original.

It is a privilege to create content for our viewers. It is our passion. It is also our business. As a business, content has value. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders to get equitable value for our content, for your efforts and the creative community. Now more than ever, we must protect the value of creativity and content. Most of all, we owe it to our viewers to ensure we are here for them, investing in the programming they love and rely on us for.

Running our business the right way requires negotiating fair deals with distributors that deliver our programming into viewers’ homes. We have done this without our portfolio being removed from any distributor’s platforms. Few of our peers can make the same claim.

Right now, we are in the midst of one such negotiation with AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, and with our contract deadline approaching, we are still far apart from reaching a deal. While I have respect for them and our long-standing relationship, AT&T has not demonstrated a willingness to negotiate reasonably. The deal we are seeking is based on the same fair market terms that have allowed us to reach deals with numerous other providers. AT&T simply has not yet demonstrated that they recognize the value of our programming and the high regard we have for our viewers – including AT&T’s own customers.

Having recently acquired WarnerMedia, AT&T appears intent on using their new position to gain an unfair advantage for their own channels. Many, including the U.S. Department of Justice, were concerned that AT&T would have the ability and incentive to discriminate against programmers like A+E Networks and others like us. It seems that concern has become a reality.

Millions of households could be impacted and deprived of their favorite programming if AT&T does not carry our networks on their platforms. Therefore, we will soon start communicating with all of our stakeholders about this situation, including our viewers.

For the last 35 years, the A+E Networks brands have played a significant and influential role in American popular culture — from the vital perspective found on HISTORY, to the ever enduring and iconic Lifetime movie to reimagining reality and reinventing live storytelling on A&E. We remain hopeful that, at the end of the day, AT&T’s focus like ours will put their consumers first.

I realize that many of you, as well as your families and friends, may be AT&T or DIRECTV subscribers. Please feel free to share a link to http://www.keepmychannels.com, which will be updated with relevant news and information.

We will continue to keep you apprised of any updates. In the meantime, the executive team and I ask that everyone remain laser focused on doing what you do best: delivering amazing stories, told with the kind of heart and passion that is definitively A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime and all of A+E Networks.
Sincerely, Paul

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/04/ae-networks-chief-warns-att-directv-blackout-says-att-uses-new-position-to-gain-an-unfair-advantage-for-their-own-channels-1202603264/