50 Cent Slams AT&T In Starz Dispute

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is throwing his two cents into the ongoing carriage-renewal talks between AT&T U-verse and Starz.

In social-media posts over the past weekend, Jackson labeled AT&T “racist” for potentially dropping Starz, which carries the drama series Power, which Jackson stars in and executive produces and draws mostly African-American viewers.

“AT&T @UVerse may drop @STARZ_Channel take away #PowerTV and the urban shows. Tweet it can’t go down. #IWantMyStarz,” Jackson tweeted Saturday night. On Instragram, he said, “Man I’m sorry I have say this, but AT&T is racist they have had issues in the past and here we go again. 500,000 homes will not be able to view the next episode of POWER." In another post he urged: "change your cable package from AT&T to anything else," saying "they are dropping all channels that are considered urban friendly." 

A story in The Los Angeles Times on Friday said Starz’s carriage deal with U-verse expires at the end of July and that talks had stalled. Neither AT&T nor Starz would confirm when the carriage deal ends but both sides said negotiations were ongoing, with no resolution yet. 

“Starz is in ongoing negotiations with AT&T U-verse to continue distributing its 30 Starz and Encore channels and services at a fair and reasonable rate,” Starz officials said in a statement. “Without a new agreement, the millions of AT&T customers who have chosen to subscribe and pay for Starz and Encore will be at risk of losing these channels and the popular original programming like Power and Outlander, as well as thousands of movies.”

AT&T in a statement expressed “disappointment” that Starz “has chosen to take our ongoing negotiations public. We continue to work diligently to reach a resolution.”

With AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV in the late stages of seeking government approval, carriage controversies can be especially sensitive. And this is not the first time AT&T has been accused of racially biased behavior. Most notably, former AT&T president of content and advertising sales, Aaron Slator, was fired in April after he was sued by other AT&T employees for possessing racist texts and images on his phone.

The National Association of African American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios owner Byron Allen last December filed a $10-billion lawsuit against both DirecTV and AT&T, claiming the companies have discriminated against 100% African-American owned cable networks, claims that AT&T and DirecTV have vigorously denied.

AT&T’s response to Jackson’s posts was: "Starz and their paid talent can spin up whatever they like, but the bottom line is we're not going to negotiate a deal that is bad for customers. In these negotiations, our customers are all that matter to us."

Power is Starz’ highest-performing series ever with more than 6.3 million multiplatform viewers to date, 75% of whom are African-American. This past Saturday’s episode drew about 2.2 million viewers, according to Starz, on part with  typical recent performance.

The Starz suite of networks also includes Starz In Black, a 24-hour channel targeted to African-American viewers.

AT&T has about 5 million U-verse TV customers. Starz as of March reported 23.7 million Starz subscribers and 33.8 million Encore subscribers. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.