AT&T Decouples from Dish Network

AT&T took another step late Tuesday to sever its distribution joint venture with Dish Network, as the telco gave formal notice to end its Dish TV-channel-resell agreement as of Dec. 31.

Two weeks ago, AT&T exercised its right requiring Dish to buy back $500 million in Dish convertible notes that mature in 2010 in another step to unwind ties.

The Tuesday notification to drop Dish opens the door for AT&T to negotiate with both Dish and DirecTV for one to be its supplier of satellite-TV channels to its telco customers starting in 2009. AT&T could pact again with Dish but on different terms than a renewal.

AT&T’s backpedaling is more bad news for Dish, as its performance has disappointed Wall Street. AT&T is rolling out its own TV-channel service, U-verse TV, with just 379,000 subscribers so far nationally, but that Internet-protocol-TV service not available in all of its territories.