AT&T Open to RFD If DirecTV Deal Okayed

Says merger would make rural-focused programming more appealing
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AT&T signaled Thursday that RFD-TV could get U-Verse carriage if the telecom's proposed combination with satellite operator DirecTV deal is approved by regulators, suggesting the merger would make rural programming more appealing, not less.

The rural-themed RFD channel has gotten some high-profile attention in Hill hearings on the AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast/Time Warner Cable deals from legislators concerned about large media companies' carriage of rural-themed programming (Comcast has dropped the channel on some of its mostly urban and suburban systems).

DirecTV carries the channel. AT&T's U-Verse video service does not. That could change.

"“Because we can offer video in only a small portion of the country – less than a quarter of U.S. households and primarily in urban areas – there has not been a lot of demand for programming geared specifically to rural audiences," an AT&T spokesperson told B&C/MultiChannel News, but added: "Once we gain approval to acquire DIRECTV, which has nationwide reach, and with our significant rural broadband expansion that the merger makes possible, we expect content that’s focused on rural customers will have greater appeal. At the same time, the merger will allow us to offer rural content owners even more value and more distribution points across a nationwide pay TV network, a nationwide mobile network and a broadband network covering 70 million customer locations.”

DirecTV Chairman Michael White told a Senate panel this week he would try to convince AT&T that FRD was a “great” channel.

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