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This is What AT&T and Sinclair Are Saying About Their Carriage Dispute

Jason Gurwin

Negotiations can be tough and the case is no different for Sinclair and AT&T who have been feuding over retransmission fees—the money AT&T pays to carry local channels. Losing Sinclair would be major blow for AT&T customers.

If AT&T and Sinclair can’t come to terms by next Friday, DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, AT&T TV, and AT&T TV NOW customers across the country could see 136 local affiliates dropped, in addition to Sinclair-owned Tennis Channel. Sinclair’s recently purchased Fox Regional Sports Network are not a part of the current deal, so they won’t be affected.

In a statement to The Streamable, AT&T said:

Sinclair controls nearly 200 free, over-the-air local broadcast stations in nearly 100 different markets, and recently spent $10.6 billion to overlap many of those with 23 regional sports networks (RSNs) carrying the sporting events that serve those same communities. Wielding these assets, Sinclair routinely threatens or shuts off access to its combination of local and national network content to accomplish one goal: drive up what it collects for content that is offered free over the air.

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. 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.

Still, AT&T will continue to negotiate in good faith to keep Sinclair’s channels in our customers’ lineups. We are on the side of customer choice and value and hope to avoid any interruption to channels some may care about. Our goal is simple – to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. And to enable anyone the freedom to experience favorite shows, channels and teams wherever, whenever and using whatever device they may choose.

Make no mistake. Sinclair alone controls whether or not its stations remain available on any provider’s lineup. And here, yet again, Sinclair has chosen to take its negotiations public, putting our customers into the middle so it can demand ever increasing and unjustified fees and enforce unwarranted limitations on our customers’ choices.

We appreciate our customers’ patience while we work this matter out.

Earlier today, David Gibber, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel said:

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

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.

The latest carriage negotiation comes after CBS nationally was dropped in major markets on DirecTV and nationally on DIRECTV NOW (now known as AT&T TV NOW). Prior to that, Nexstar, the largest local affiliate owner, had their channels dropped DirecTV, DIRECTV NOW, and AT&T U-Verse.

Sinclair has already been affected by the blackouts, as 19 of their local affiliates in which they had JSA agreements were dropped by AT&T in June. The company also had all of their CBS affiliates, which are negotiated by CBS directly, dropped by DIRECTV NOW in late-July.

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