AT&T is telling the FCC that it should reject AMC's carriage complaint and its request that, in the interim, the FCC provide AMC temporary relief by requiring AT&T to carry its channels.
Earlier this month, AMC Networks filed a program carriage complaint against AT&T, alleging that the phone company was favoring its own networks--HBO Max and TNT--over AMC’ networks (AMCN), in not reaching a new carriage deal. AMC also sought a "standstill" order that would keep the networks on AT&T outlets.
That "favoritism" argument had been one of the Trump Administration's criticism's of the AT&T-Time Warner merger--that AT&T would favor its own content--though a federal judge dismissed that criticism in rejecting an attempt by the Justice Department to block the deal.
But in its opposition to the AMC petition, AT&T pointed out that the FCC has never provided such temporary relief related to a carriage complaint and offered up an alternative for why it would be carrying an HBO, say, over an AMC channel. It said that granting the temporary relief would be "overriding AT&T’s business judgment and compelling it to continue carrying all six of AMCN’s networks while overpaying AMCN for content that is not popular enough to justify the fees it is demanding."
AT&T said that forcing it to "overpay" would result in a windfall for AMC and put AT&T "at a competitive disadvantage in the MVPD marketplace...AMCN cannot show that it would suffer irreparable harm from a temporary service disruption pending resolution of the program-carriage proceeding."
And while AMC said that requiring carriage while the FCC considers the underlying complaint was needed to promote diverse programming, AT&T said that is meritless. It points out that currently, without the six AMC channels at issue, AT&T's MVPD affiliates (DirecTV, U-Verse) combined carry 452 channels, of which 401 or 89% are independent channels according to the FCC's definition.
AT&T also told the FCC the AMC petition was deficient on multiple fronts and should be rejected. Those include that AMC's nets are not similarly situated to HBO or TNT, that it has not tried to prove that AT&T has no business case for not paying what AMC wants for its nets, or that AT&T would benefit from carrying the six AMC nets.
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