After a war of words, AT&T and Sinclair have reached a new comprehensive carriage agreement covering DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-verse.
AT&T’s video platform will continue to carry Sinclair-owned local broadcast stations and the Tennis Channel. Down the road, AT&T will also carry Marquee Sports Network, a new Chicago Cubs regional sports network launching in 2020, as well as the 21 RSN brands Sinclair recently acquired from Disney. The company will also carry the YES Network, in which Sinclair is a joint-venture partner alongside Amazon and others.
The new agreement ends a fairly brief but bitter standoff between the distributor and the broadcaster.
In September, Sinclair warned viewers that AT&T could soon lose access to 136 television stations in 86 markets.
“AT&T is the largest MVPD in the country and seems intent on using its tremendous market power to dictate to viewers which programming from other content providers they can receive, even as they continue to acquire content providers and push their own content to viewers,” said David Gibber, Sinclair’s senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement during the dispute. “Despite the tremendous market power of AT&T, most consumers of AT&T and DirecTV do have some other alternatives to receive our in-demand programming. Although it would be unfortunate to lose AT&T and DirecTV as customers, we are simply not prepared to sell our programming to them at the below market rates they are demanding due to their overwhelming market power.”
AT&T responded by accusing Sinclair off turning too often to channel blackouts as a negotiating tactic to drive up retransmission consent fees.
“It’s disingenuous for Sinclair to denounce AT&T’s market power when Sinclair, like all broadcasters, enjoys an antiquated, statutorily created monopoly for its products,” said AT&T in a statement responding to Sinclair's accusation. “Not surprisingly given its market power, Sinclair has made egregious demands for broad carriage and payment on one of the most expensive single-team RSNs ever with the Cubs in Chicago; for carriage of multiple cable channels that don’t even exist or that Sinclair hopes to someday acquire; and for RSNs that aren’t even up for renewal – just to name a few.”