AT&T U-verse: We're Ready To Resume Talks With Hallmark

AT&T is ready to restart negotiations with Hallmark Channels, according to a spokesperson for the telco's multichannel video service, though a Hallmark exec said the last official word they received indicated that was not the case.

Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel have been off U-verse's air since the two could not come to renewal terms, when their contract expired on Aug. 31.

A Hallmark spokesperson told Multichannel News last week that the company was "ready and willing" to resume negotiations, which broke off after that Aug. 31 midnight deadline passed without a new deal.

"We're ready to resume talks at any time," said AT&T spokesperson Jenny Bridges Thursday, appearing to complete the circuit. "We want nothing more than to reach a fair agreement and continue to bring customers the content they want."

Susanne McAvoy, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the programmer, responded by saying that one of Hallmark's top negotiators reached out to one of AT&T lead players on a call on Tuesday and was told: "'No, there is no change, we are not willing to negotiate,' So that is where things are," she said.

But McAvoy also reiterated that Hallmark continues to be willing to resume talks.

Bridges had no further comment.

Should  the parties not be able to bridge their differences by Sept. 13, AT&T U-verse customers would miss the bow of the sixth season of The Martha Stewart Show, which will air exclusively on the network as the centerpiece of its new "Hallmark Channel Home" daytime daypart.

AT&T has said it offered to continue carrying the channel on the old terms without a contract while they continued to negotiate, but that Hallmark declined. A Hallmark spokesperson said an extension was not granted because it received a termination letter from AT&T.

Talks broke off two weeks ago, but resumed last week and went right up to the deadline.

The rhetoric has gotten pointed at times.

AT&T has charged that Hallmark has "refused to adhere to key obligations" under its current deal, while Hallmark Channels president and CEO Bill Abbott countered that he was "stunned" by what he called the "apparent disregard for the facts in AT&T's statement regarding our negotiations."

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.