AT&T drops Al Jazeera; Verizon agrees with CBS

Programming--to be carried or not to be carried--is coming into play for the country's two biggest telco TV service providers.

AT&T (NYSE: T) decided it wasn't going to carry Qatar-based Al Jazeera's new cable channel on U-verse and the channel promptly filed suit against the service provider. Verizon (NYSE: VZ), meanwhile, went in the other direction, reaching a new distribution agreement with CBS (NYSE: CBS) even as that broadcast conglomerate continues an increasingly ugly war with Time Warner Cable.

AT&T said that its decision not to carry the Arab-based channel, which acquired Al Gore's Current TV, shut it down and hoped to replace it on MVPD platforms, was based on a "contract dispute," Crain's New York stated in a story. Al Jazeera officials, while not exactly saying they didn't care why AT&T took the action, did say that they were unhappy enough about it to sue in Delaware Chancery Court.

"AT&T's decision to unilaterally delete Al Jazeera America presented us with circumstances that were untenable--an affiliate that has willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations," said Stan Collender, a partner in Qorvis Communications, according to Crain's. The suit, he added, aims to "compel AT&T to do the right thing."

At the other end of the programming spectrum, Verizon has done something that its rival Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has been unable to do: reach agreement with CBS to carry its broadcast stations and other content on its cable systems. According to the Los Angeles Times, the two parties agreed on retransmission consent for broadcast stations and that Verizon would offer more visibility to CBS Sports Network among its FiOS TV markets.

"This important deal was reached swiftly and amicably in just a few days after our conversations began," said Les Moonves, CBS' chief executive in a memo to employees carried by the Times. The story said that Moonves maintained Time Warner Cable had been offered "almost exactly the same deal that Verizon accepted."

The dispute with TWC has been going on since the beginning of August and shows no signs of being settled.

"I cannot describe to you the frustration I feel at the way these negotiations have gone," Moonves reportedly wrote.

For more:
- Crain's New York carried this story
- and the Los Angeles Times carried this story

Related articles:
Verizon pushes FiOS to CBS employees as Time Warner Cable feud continues
FiOS steps in as Time Warner Cable, CBS feud
Al Jazeera sues AT&T after it refuses to replace Current TV with news network