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.
purchased AmericanLife Television in 2009 and rebranded it as Youtoo TV in
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