RFD-TV, after vigorous activity in Washington, D.C., related to big TV-distribution mergers, launched today on AT&T U-Verse, adding 5.4 million homes to its reach, the programmer and the distributor said.
The channel, which carries agricultural news, equestrian events and older content such as reruns of Hee-Haw, has inspired thousands of comments to the Federal Communications Commission supporting rural programming protection in Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable and in AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV. Before today’s standard-definition launch on channel 568 (in the U200 package), RFD-TV had not been carried on U-Verse, which is AT&T’s multichannel video service. U-Verse already carries FamilyNet, another channel owned by RFD-TV parent Rural Media Group.
“This is a major accomplishment is this day and age with the challenges of mergers, limited bandwidth, and independent channels being dropped by cable systems all around the country,” Rural Media founder and chairman Patrick Gottsch told Multichannel News in an email. “More than anything else, this is a tribute to RFD-TV's programmers and programming which combined with the passion of our audience for rural, family-oriented programming has proven to be an unbeatable force capable of doing the ‘impossible.’ "
Gottsch said AT&T said it would add RFD HD no later than the end of this year.
“We strive to carry content that appeals to a wide variety of audiences,” Aaron Slator, president, content development, AT&T, said in a separate release. “We’re excited to be able to bring RFD TV programming to our customers.”
AT&T signaled in June that RFD-TV could get U-Verse carriage if the telecom's proposed combination with satellite-TV leader DirecTV was approved by regulators, suggesting the merger would make rural programming more appealing, not less.
Gottsch also said: "No other channel gets so much support from its audience. To have over 57,000 of the 75,000 public comments to the FCC in the Comcast/Time Warner merger, and to date over 95% of the AT&T/DirecTV public comments to the FCC about the importance of rural programming is making the strongest possible statement at this most critical time. I also want to thank the executives at AT&T and U-Verse. Unlike Comcast, since the review hearings at both the House & Senate, AT&T has sincerely worked hard to first understand the concerns of rural America, and take those concerns seriously. AT&T did so in a most expeditious manner. To go from our first meeting just a few months ago to an agreement this past Friday to an actual launch today is a real testament to AT&T's commitment of being a partner with RFD-TV to better serve the needs and interests of rural America. This is a huge step forward, but only a step. We still have a lot of work to do. However, I firmly believe that this announcement with AT&T U-Verse will help our efforts to get RFD-TV's distribution expanded and secured with the other carriers throughout this great nation."