In a wide-ranging Los Angeles Times profile, AT&T Entertainment Chief Content Officer Daniel York is portrayed as an extremely hardball negotiator.
According to multiple sources, York’s style of negotiating is like “mashing your face into the cement” and often results in shouting matches, all-nighters and tears on the part of programmers.
The profile focuses on the Justice Department’s lawsuit against DirecTV, accusing the pay-TV provider of colluding with other providers including Charter and Cox to prevent Time Warner Cable-owned SportsNet LA, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, from getting carriage deals done. York, who is pegged as the “ringleader” in the suit, apparently felt “burned” by an earlier deal DirecTV made to carry TWC’s Lakers network and wanted to ensure it wouldn’t get “played again.”
In addition to the kerfuffle with TWC over its regional sports networks, the report also points out the similarly hardline tactics York used in programming negotiations with The Weather Channel and Hallmark channels.
The lawsuit and the cloud it is creating over DirecTV and York comes not long after AT&T acquired the operator for $49 billion and while AT&T is pursuing an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc.
AT&T, for its part, is addressing the lawsuit and defending the decision to not carry SportsNet LA as simply a programming and financial decision.
“We respect the DOJ’s important role in protecting consumers, but in this case, which occurred before AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, we see the facts differently,” said David McAtee, AT&T general counsel, in a statement. “The reason why no other major TV provider chose to carry this content was that no one wanted to force all of their customers to pay the inflated prices that Time Warner Cable was demanding for a channel devoted solely to L.A. Dodgers baseball. We make our carriage decisions independently, legally and only after thorough negotiations with the content owner. We look forward to presenting these facts in court.”