A + E Networks is warning viewers of a possible blackout of A & E Network, Lifetime, History and other channels across DirecTV platforms as the sides go down to the wire on carriage renewal negotiations. facing a deadline of midnight ET Tuesday to strike a new deal that will keep A + E Networks channels on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse. A + E was expected to start running and crawl Saturday night on select programs across its channels to inform viewers of the potential for the channels to go dark.
Negotiations are ongoing but A + E Networks brass are clearly concerned. A & E Networks Group CEO Paul Buccieri alerted company staffers to the situation in a memo sent Saturday afternoon.
"AT & T has not demonstrated a willingness to negotiate reasonably," Buccieri wrote. "The deal we are looking for is based on the same fair market terms that have allowed us to reach deals with many other providers. AT & T has not yet demonstrated that they recognize the value of our programming and the high regard we have for our viewers ̵
DirecTV parent AT & T has been blunt in its discussions with Wall Street about its intention to hammer down on rising programming costs as DirecTV service suffers from substantial subscriber losses as the pay-TV eco system evolves. Earlier this week, AT & T reported a loss of 544,000 DirecTV subscribers in the first quarter, bringing total subs over AT & T's MVPD services to 22.4 million
AT & T is under pressure to improve the financial picture at DirecTV as the company's arms and $ 170 billion debt
DirecTV in a statement said it was trying to protect consumers from price increases
"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, "DirecTV 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 will continue to fight for that here. "
Buccieri raised the specter of AT & T discriminating against an outside programming service after bulking up on acquisitions.
But DIrecTV is not alone among distributors in face-to-face contract showdowns. Public disputes between MVPDs and programmers are on the rise in a time of rapid transformation of the pay-TV market as low-cost new entrants such as Hulu and YouTube move in. Last year, DirecTV rival Dish came to terms on a deal with Univision after a nine-month blackout.
"Having recently acquired WarnerMedia, AT & T appears to be using their new position to gain a unfair advantage for their own channels," Buccieri wrote. "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 looks like concern has become a reality. "
A + E Networks is expected to start running promo spots warning viewers about the contract tussle, and crawl messages on its largest channels. The A + E Networks channel portfolio also includes FYI, Lifetime Movie Network and Viceland.