Last week Sinclair and AT&T agreed to a second short term extension to keep Sinclair locals on AT&T’s DIRECTV, AT&T TV NOW, U-Verse and more. Now it seems that a final deal has not been reached as last night AT&T started to run warning messages about Sinclair locals going dark on its TV services.
What is strange about this move is that Sinclair has shut down its warnings of a possible AT&T blackout. The website that had warned of the blackout now just says: “Thank you for being a loyal Sinclair viewer. We continue to work with AT&T to maintain access to our programming.” AT&T’s TV promise website still continues to warn of a possible Sinclair blackout.
Before Sinclairs keepmycontent.com website was shut down it included this message: “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,” stated David Gibber, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “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.”
According to the National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T has been responsible for more than four out of five retransmission consent disruptions industry-wide over the past eight years. Over the last 120 days, AT&T has dropped more than 150 stations in more than 120 markets.
An AT&T Spokesperson sent Cord Cutters News the following statement about the possible blackout:
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.
No exact time was announced for when the blackout could happen but it seems the deadline to reach a new deal is coming soon. For now, it seems that AT&T is trying to put pressure on Sinclair by warning its viewers of a possible blackout.