Youtoo TV CEO Chris Wyatt has hired Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson to help him make his case in Washington for why Verizon FiOS should not be able to summarily drop his channel.
He says Verizon has sent out a notice that the channel will go away Dec. 31, when the contract expires, according to Verizon.
Wyatt's company bought AmericanLife Television in 2009 and rebranded it as Youtoo TV in 2011.
Youtoo has asked Verizon to agree to a 60-day standstill -- or what Wyatt called Friday a "stay of execution" -- so Wyatt and company can come in to talk about the new interactive technology the network is using to put viewers into the TV picture and to "avoid hurting innovation, family programming and exacerbating antitrust problems."
He said Verizon "has not been receptive at all," saying space was needed for an HD channel.
After being dropped by Charter and then Cox last year, Wyatt said the channel might have to close down if it loses Verizon, having lost some $100 million in valuation due to the carriage drops.
He told Multichannel News the per-subscriber fee for Youtoo averages only 6 cents a month, but that Verizon said the issue is bandwidth, not cost. "Everybody on Capitol Hill knows that bandwidth is an excuse," he says.
Wyatt is not simply letting his lawyers do the talking. He has been in Washington, talking to House and Senate staffers and the offices of all five Federal Communications Commission members, he says. He said he found a receptive audience at the FCC. With a raft of holiday parties at the commission Friday afternoon, there was no one immediately available to comment.
Next stop will be the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, says Wyatt. The key issue he is raising with lawmakers is bundling of programming, or "tying" in the antitrust context, he says. "It's bundling issues; that is the problem."
Since the wheels of Washington move slowly, his immediate goal is to get Verizon to reconsider its position, while at the same time making the point to Washington policymakers that they should be concerned about the potential loss of this channel and its family-friendly programming and why it was taken off the air.
Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said the company made a judgment involving both cost and channel capacity, which he called routine considerations in such decisions.
"This was a straightforward business decision. We have a number of independent programming partners that our subscribers are viewing and, given the cost involved in these kinds of agreements, we made the decision based on viewership that Youtoo TV needed to be taken off." He had no comment on whether it was to make room for an HD channel.
Wyatt promised he would not go away quietly. "They are messing with the wrong independent. If they cancel us, it's only going to escalate. I will not stop."
Particularly since he suggests that the channel's future could hang in the balance. "We face issues potentially with financing and moving forward. He says the company has borrowed millions and if they don't make up the lost and potentially lost revenue, "could be the end of the network.