Carriage Wars: Rainbow vs AT&T Down To Wire, ABC vs Time Warner Looming

If you are an AT&T U-Verse subscriber, you may lose AMC, IFC and WE tv programming at midnight tonight. Hours before the extension between Cablevision-owned Rainbow Media and AT&T is set to expire, the two sides still appear at impasse, issuing dueling statements.

“Our executives have been at AT&T U-Verse offices for several weeks, doing everything possible to reach an agreement that will keep AMC’s Mad Men, and other programming from AMC, WE tv and IFC available to their customers,” Rainbow Media said. “We have agreements with every other television provider in the country and have never had our networks dropped in more than 25 years.”

AT&T was more specific in addressing the sticking issue, a rates hike pursued by Rainbow Media, and repeatedly stressed that Rainbow is owned by AT&T competitor Cablevision. “We are making every effort to reach a fair agreement and continue providing these channels to our customers. It’s unfortunate that Rainbow Media, owned by Cablevision, is clearly not negotiating in good faith, is trying to charge significantly more than the average of what our TV competitors pay for these channels, and is acting in a way that harms competition and limits consumer choice,” AT&T said. The company added they’ve made “numerous proposals.” “However, Cablevision’s Rainbow Media has rejected each of them, instead making unreasonable proposals that give it an unfair competitive advantage,” AT&T said.

As part of its campaign, AT&T has launched a Web site, Fighting4you, an often-employed tool by telcos these days. Time Warner used one, Roll Over Or Get Tough, during its carriage dispute with Fox at Christmastime. It had gone dormant until the company spruced it up yesterday as it is gearing up for another potential standoff with ABC, ESPN and the Disney Channel. The companies’ carriage deal expires on Sept. 2. Judging by TWC’s difficult recent negotiations with Fox and TWC and ABC’s patchy history – their 2000 carriage dispute led to a day-long blackout of ABC during May sweep at the height of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – the talks probably won’t be easy this time around either. ABC has been vocal about pursuing retransmission consent fees and was able to get a payment in its face-off with Cablevision in March that also led to a blackout, restored 20 minutes into the network’s Oscar broadcast.

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