With AT&T coming under fire this week following revelations of its foundational role in the creation of controversial far-right media company One America News Network, a DirecTV rep told Next TV that the pay TV operator has no plans to drop the OAN channel before its current distribution deal ends.
“We plan to honor our existing agreement through its current term. Like other channels, we evaluate OAN on an ongoing basis and will conduct a thorough review before any renewal,“ the rep said.
DirecTV won't say when its current carriage deal with OAN is up.
The DirecTV statement comes one day after OAN critics, including Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of media watchdog group Media Matters, called on AT&T to drop OAN from its pay TV platforms immediately.
AT&T, which just spun DirecTV off, along with the rest of its linear pay TV assets, into a joint venture with private equity firm TPG, that the telecom 70% owns, has come under sharp criticism week following a Reuters report revealing its foundational backing of OAN.
Testimony made two years ago amid an employment lawsuit, including a deposition made by OAN founder and CEO Robert Herring Sr., shows that AT&T might have contributed as much as 90% of OAN's revenue since the company was launched in 2013.
According to Herring, before OAN launched, AT&T told him that the company wanted to have another conservative network, besides Fox News, on its programming guide.
“They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one," he said.
But OAN has come under intense criticism for backing former President Donald Trump‘s “Big Lie” — that the 2020 election was “rigged” and determined by fraud. The company's critics blame it for spreading associated misinformation that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation's capital.
OAN has also come under heavy fire for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and its associated vaccines, with critics accusing the media company of duping thousands of its consumers into fatal decision-making regarding the deadly virus.
“For a corporation that fuels OAN, a network that continues to spread lies about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection, AT&T’s values could not be any more performative and flat-out fake,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We are sickened by these revelations.”
On his Twitter feed Thursday, Media Matters chief Carusone detailed specifics of what his org believes are the terms of AT&T's carriage deal with OAN:
> AT&T's spun-off media platforms are “overpaying” OAN to the tune of 12 cents per subscriber per month, Carusone said. With around 15.4 million subscribers, as of the end of the second quarter, the erstwhile AT&T TV (now DirecTV Stream), U-verse and DirecTV are paying, combined, around $1.8 million a month to OAN, according to the math Carusone lays out. “OANN doesn't have a particular [sic] high demand score and certainly not one that would justify 12 cents,” he tweeted. A former programming executive for a major pay TV operator told us he believes AT&T is probably paying around 11 cents per subscriber for not just OAN, but also Herring Network's Inc.'s AWN channel. "This makes the effective cost of OWN $0.05 per channel," the exec said.
> According to Media Matters, AT&T has a provision in its carriage deal with One America News stipulating that any other pay TV operator has to pay the same carriage fees as AT&T. “ATT almost certainly put this provision in the contract in order to make it harder for them to get pick up elsewhere … so that the channel would be largely limited to ATT,” Carusone tweeted. The former pay TV programming executive confirmed this assertion.
> AT&T's carriage agreement with OAN automatically renews each year, Carusone added. ”Earlier in the year, it seems ATT made the ACTIVE decision to allow the contract with OANN to renew … even after all the medical misinfo, attacks on election and Jan 6 insurrection,“ he added. The former programming exec we spoke to disputed this assertion: "I believed AT&T’s was a multi-year deal without the annual renewal mechanism," he said.
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