Scripps Nets Come Off U-Verse As Pact Expires


Scripps Networks Interactive-owned Food Network, HGTV, Cooking, DIY and GAC came off AT&T U-verse TV lineups Friday morning in a move Scripps called "surprising" after it offered a temporary extension.

Scripps said it offered a "third extension" to AT&T that would have kept the networks on through the rest of the year, while negotiations continued.

SNI president John Lansing said the two sides had agreed on fees already, ahead of the contract's expiration (before extensions) last month. The dispute now is over broadband and other new technology distribution platforms that go beyond traditional cable carriage, he said.

The channels came off AT&T U-Verse at 1 a.m., AT&T said. U-Verse TV has about 2.7 million customers.

Food Network's Guy Fieri

AT&T said it was replacing the channels in the meantime with "a free preview" of TLC on channels 450/1450, Bravo on channels 452/1452, Planet Green on channels 454/1454, ION Life on channel 456/1456 and CMT Pure Country on channel 529.

AT&T said Scripps "ultimately refused to put in writing key terms that had been agreed upon verbally, leaving our customers without a fair deal as our extended contract expired."

Using language similar -- possibly stronger -- than that used by Cablevision against Fox Networks in their recent impasse (though that dispute mostly involved broadcast stations), AT&T said SNI "is demanding that AT&T pay double what other competitors pay -- including smaller-sized affiliates -- and has yet to provide a proposal that gives AT&T a choice in the channels we carry and pay for, despite repeated requests."

AT&T also said "Scripps Networks also wants this premium price for inferior access to their content for our customers on other platforms, even though other competitors get this at much lower prices. With such an uneven playing field, they are harming AT&T's ability to provide customers with a new video choice. We will continue to fight for a fair deal to bring these channels back to our lineup because our customers deserve the programming they want, at a fair price."

Scripps said "the remaining issues involved in the negotiations revolve around AT&T U-verse's demands to use Scripps Networks' video -- video that was created specifically for its lifestyle networks and video that Scripps owns -- in ways that go beyond normal business practices."

SNI president John Lansing said in a statement: "AT&T U-verse demanded unreasonably broad video rights for emerging media where business models have not even been established. Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our content to our viewers in new and innovative ways."

Again ramping up the verbiage, AT&T said: "Unfortunately, this is yet another example of a network punishing its own viewers for leverage in programming negotiations."

AT&T dropped Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel in September when that deal expired.

SNI channels were off Cablevision for about three weeks in January in a fee dispute.

Channel drops have been a frequent occurrence lately. MSG Networks outlets are off Dish Network in a lingering dispute, and G4 as of this week is off DirecTV.