AT&T Open To RFD If DirecTV Deal Okayed

AT&T signaled Thursday that RFD-TV could get U-Verse carriage if its proposed combination with satellite operator DirecTV deal is approved by regulators.

The rural channel has gotten some high-profile attention in Hill hearings on the AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast/Time Warner Cable deals from legislators concerned about large media companies' carriage of rural-themed programming (Comcast has dropped the channel on some of its mostly urban and suburban systems).

DirecTV carries the channel, but AT&T's U-Verse does not. That could change.

"“Because we can offer video in only a small portion of the country – less than a quarter of U.S. households and primarily in urban areas – there has not been a lot of demand for programming geared specifically to rural audiences," an AT&T spokesperson said, but added: "Once we gain approval to acquire DirecTV, which has nationwide reach, and with our significant rural broadband expansion that the merger makes possible, we expect content that’s focused on rural customers will have greater appeal. At the same time, the merger will allow us to offer rural content owners even more value and more distribution points across a nationwide pay TV network, a nationwide mobile network and a broadband network covering 70 million customer locations.”

DirecTV chairman Michael White told a Senate panel this week he would try to convince AT&T that RFD-TV was a “great” channel.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.