Scripps, AT&T at loggerheads, programming dumped


That’s right folks – the word is “dumped,” not “pulled.” In this retransmission consent impasse, MVPD AT&T U-verse actually dumped cable channels owned and operated by Scripps Networks, after Scripps had offered to allow their continued carriage for the rest of the year while contract negotiations continue.

The programming involved involves some popular basic cable fare: HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and GAC. AT&T said it declined an offer for a third carriage extension while talks proceeded.

In a statement, AT&T U-verse said, “We’re extremely disappointed that Scripps Networks won’t provide a fair deal for AT&T customers. Our team has been working for weeks to reach a fair agreement, but Scripps Networks ultimately refused to put in writing key terms that had been agreed upon verbally, leaving our customers without a fair deal as our extended contract expired. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of a network punishing its own viewers for leverage in programming negotiations. Scripps Networks is demanding that AT&T pay double what other competitors pay — including smaller-sized affiliates — and has yet to provide a proposal that gives AT&T a choice in the channels we carry and pay for, despite repeated requests.”

Scripps Networks President John Lansing also had comments, saying, “This is something we worked hard to avoid. Let me start by saying this impasse is not about money. We reached an agreement in principle with AT&T U-verse on the distribution fees we would receive for these networks well in advance of last month’s contract deadline.”

Confirming that U-verses refused an offer to extend carriage, Lansing continued, “We are shocked and disappointed that AT&T U-verse would rather deprive its customers of fan favorites like HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country than continue to negotiate in good faith.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Legislators and regulators take note: This is a broadcast-free brawl. There is much more to carriage controversy than the presence of an FCC license. Don’t forget to look at the entire picture when you jump into this mess. Allowing value to be determined by the open market may be messy, but it is extremely hard to see how the government could do it any better.