YouToo CEO Makes Some Noise in Washington
Takes complaint against Verizon dropping of channel to Hill and FCC
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/14/2012 4:42:02 PM
YouToo CEO Chris Wyatt has hired Washington law firm Steptoe
& Johnson to help him make his case in Washington for why Verizon should
not be able to summarily drop his channel. He says Verizon has sent out a
notice that the channel will go away Dec. 31, when the contract expires,
according to Verizon.
Youtoo purchased AmericanLife Television in 2009 and rebranded it as Youtoo TV in 2011.
YouToo has asked Verizon to agree to a 60-day standstill -- or what Wyatt called Friday a "stay of execution" -- so Wyatt and company and come in to talk to them about the new interactive technology they are employing to put viewers into the TV picture, literally, and to "avoid hurting innovation, family programming and exacerbating antitrust problems." He said Verizon "has not been receptive at all," saying they need the space for an HD channel.
After being dropped by Charter and then Cox last year, and now Verizon, he says the channel may have to be shuttered if it loses Verizon, having lost some $100 million in valuation due to the carriage drops.
He told B&C/Multichannel that the sub fee for the channel averages only 6 cents a month, but that Verizon said the issue is bandwidth, not cost. "Everybody on Capitol Hill knows that bandwidth is an excuse," he says.
But Wyatt is not simply letting his lawyers do the talking, he has been in Washington, talking to House and Senate staffers and the offices of all five FCC commissioners, he says. He said he found a receptive audience at the FCC. With a raft of holiday parties at the commission Friday afternoon, there was no one immediately available to comment.
Next stop will be the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, says Wyatt. The key issue he is raising with lawmakers is bundling of programming, or "tying" in the antitrust context, he says. "It's bundling issues; that is the problem."
Since the wheels of Washington move slowly, his immediate goal is to get Verizon to reconsider its position, while at the same time making the point to Washington policymakers that they should be concerned about the potential loss of this channel and its family-friendly programming and why it was taken off the air.
Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden called it a straightforward business decision involving both cost and channel capacity, which he called routine considerations in such decisions.
"This was a straightforward business decision. We have a number of independent programming partners that our subscribers are viewing and, given the cost involved in these kinds of agreements, we made the decision based on viewership that Youtoo TV needed to be taken off." He had no comment on whether it was to make room for an HD channel.
Wyatt promised he would not go away quietly. "They are messing with the wrong independent. If they cancel us, it's only going to escalate. I will not stop."
Particularly since he suggests that the channel's future could hang in the balance. "We face issues potentially with financing and moving forward." He says the company has borrowed millions and if they don't make up the lost and potentially lost revenue, "could be the end of the network."
It is not an easy fight when a small independent network takes a stand against Verizon or any of the huge corporation. Kuddos to Youtoo's CEO for taking a stand and being the David, as in David vs. Goliath.
Verizon should really be promoting the fact that they have a channel that allows people to be on TV not kicking them to curb. Way to go Youtoo and Mr. Wyatt, best of luck!
Susan - 12/15/2012 4:54:09 PM EST
When a small, independant cable company can't get the GIANT Corporation to listen, the CEO takes it to The Hill. That's impressive and highly commendable! Youtoo has a voice, and deserves to be heard. My family enjoys the programming on the Youtoo Network and we have Verizon. Don't take it away. My grand daughter and her friends love being ON TV. No other channel offers such fun!!
J Oden - 12/15/2012 4:32:12 PM EST
The big media conglomerates are forcing the distributors to drop the independents. The independents are the ones that bring new ideas and new content. What a shame that the big multi channel owners are able to force consumers to pay for product they don’t watch. Not everyone is a sports fan or reality TV fan. So why does everyone pay for these services. The big media companies even say that if the independents are gone there will be more money for them to demand. This is not consumer friendly. The Youtoo network is creating something special and more people will miss the opportunity to participate because of the pressure being put on the Youtoo distributors.
E Fraz - 12/15/2012 3:40:14 PM EST
Take the fight to Congress!!! Mr. Wyatt is not just fighting for Independent Cable Channels, he is fighting for small businesses everywhere. Thank you for taking a stand for all of us!!! Youtoo TV is a great channel and gives people the opportunity to be on TV. Verizon should want to promote they have something cool.
Danny O - 12/15/2012 10:24:08 AM EST
Since it seems like nobody else will fight for the little guy, I'm glad to see at least THIS little guy is fighting for themselves. Youtoo is on the cutting edge of the second-screen movement.
Kenny Raines - 12/15/2012 12:12:57 AM EST
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