AT&T averts blackout with Disney deal, but Sinclair dispute looms

AT&T
AT&T recently warned that its tack in content deal negotiations will help toward cost management goals, but that it could result in an incremental 300,000 to 350,000 premium video losses above the second quarter’s premium video results (AT&T)

AT&T’s pay TV platforms including DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV Now will get to keep ABC, ESPN and other channels after reaching a new retransmission consent deal with Disney. But, a new dispute with Sinclair is brewing.

The new agreement with Disney comes after earlier this month the company warned viewers that its channels could be dropped soon from AT&T’s TV services.

“Our contract with AT&T for the ABC, ESPN, Disney and Freeform networks is due to expire soon, so we have a responsibility to make our viewers aware of the potential loss of our programming. However, we remain fully committed to reaching a deal and are hopeful we can do so,” said Disney in a statement.

With that deal in place, AT&T will now have to turn its attention to negotiating with Sinclair. The broadcast group last Friday warned viewers that AT&T could soon lose access to 136 television stations in 86 markets.

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“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. “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 recently encountered carriage disputes with CBS and Nexstar Media, the latter resulting in an eight-week channel blackout before a new consent deal was reached.

The carrier recently warned that its tack in content deal negotiations will help toward cost management goals, but that it could result in an incremental 300,000 to 350,000 premium video losses above the second quarter’s premium video results. AT&T lost 778,000 traditional video subscribers (along with 168,000 DirecTV Now subscribers) in the second quarter. That means premium video subscriber losses for AT&T could push well past one million during the third quarter.

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