AMC Networks has filed a program carriage complaint against AT&T, charging that the phone company is favoring the networks it owns, such as HBO Max and TNT, over AMC’s channels, such as AMC Network and AMC Plus.
“We have had a long and successful relationship with AT&T and we hope to continue our strong partnership well into the future. We are only asking AT&T to treat our networks fairly and not competitively disadvantage our programming and business interests as compared to the manner in which they treat their own networks like HBO and TNT,” AMC said in a statement.
In its complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission, AMC said that AT&T was seeking to cut back on how much it pays to carry AMC networks -- while paying its own services more -- and that AT&T wants AMC to keep its content on cable rather than distribute it online and over the top. Details of those charges were redacted in the publicly available version of the suit.
In its complaint, AMC noted that when AT&T was trying to get its acquisition of Time Warner approved, it promised not to discriminate against networks that its networks compete with.
“Now, however, AT&T is attempting to do exactly that. It is attempting to cause severe harm to the smaller independent network AMC, which offers a fresh, independent and diverse voice on MVPDs’ channel lineups that is highly valued by subscribers, for the benefit of AT&T’s competing and similarly situated network TNT and HBO,” the suit alleges.
The suit notes AT&T statements justifying price increases for DirecTV because it is paying more for programming. It also notes that AT&T isn’t seeking to constrain the networks it owns from being online. “To the contrary, HBO and TNT are already carried on a wide variety of online platforms,” the suit said.
AMC is seeking to have AT&T carry AMC and AMC Plus on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates, and to have the FCC impose the maximum fine on AT&T for violating the commission’s rules.
AT&T said AMC's complaint is without merit.
"We treat all programmers fairly and will continue to work with AMC Networks to provide its content at a price that is reasonable to our customers. But, the cost to provide that programming should reflect that AMC Networks’ shows have been declining in popularity as compared to their peers for several years," a spokesperson said. "AMC’s plea to the FCC doesn’t acknowledge our TV services collectively represent only 15% of U.S. television households, and in nearly every market across the country, consumers have two or more competing options that carry AMC Network’s portfolio of channels.“
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.