A+E Networks Prepares for Blackout With AT&T

Buccieri: Distributor won’t ‘negotiate reasonably’
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A+E Networks is beginning to warn viewers that it might get blacked out Tuesday in a carriage dispute with AT&T, which owns DirecTV.

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The network has begun running ads on TV urging viewers to call DirecTV to ask them to keep A+E’s networks--including A&E, History and Lifetime--available.

In a memo to staff obtained by Broadcasting & Cable, A+E CEO Paul Buccieri said that “while I have respect for them and our long-standing relationship, AT&T has not demonstrated a willingness to negotiate reasonably.”

Related: AT&T Reports Lower First-Quarter Net Income

Buccieri said AT&T is seeking the same “fair market terms” it has gotten in deals with 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,” he said.

He also noted that AT&T recently acquired Time Warner, and appears to want to use its position to gain an advantage for the networks that it owns.

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“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,” Buccieri said.

"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," AT&T said in a statement. "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."

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AT&T has said it is looking to try to reduce its programming costs as it loses subscribers at DirecTV.

On its first quarter earnings call, CEO Randall Stephenson said he believed that in a recent deal with Viacom, AT&T was successful at “bending the cost curve” when it comes to programming fees.

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