Discovery Is in Dispute With T-Mobile Over TVision

CEO David Zaslav (Image credit: Discovery)

Discovery CEO David Zaslav said that it is currently in a dispute over how Discovery’s channels are being offered on T-Mobile’s new TVision pay-TV service.

Sources familiar with the situation said ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal have similar concerns.

Four of Discovery’s most popular networks--Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV and TLC--are being offered as part of a $10 a month Vibe skinny bundle, but are not included on higher priced packages with more channels. T-Mobile unveiled its revamped T-Vision last month.

Speaking on Discovery’s earnings call with analysts Thursday, Zaslav said T-Mobile was violating its distribution agreements with Discovery.

“We were very surprised with how T-Mobile decided that they were going to bundle our networks, particularly because we have a clear agreement where our networks are required to be carried on all their basic tiers OTT offerings,” Zaslav said.

Also Read: T-Mobile’s TVision: It’s the Video Multitool that Wireless Rivals AT&T and Verizon Lack (Review)

“So let’s just characterize it this way: We’re in active discussion with them to quickly resolve that issue. We don’t believe they have the right to do what they’re doing right now. And they know. It’s very clear to them and they’re focused on it,” he said.

For ViacomCBS, its BET and MTV channels are part of TVision's Vibe tier. But the company's other networks, including the CBS Broadcast Network, is not. 

NBCU's deal calls for NBC stations to be included in all packages, a source familiar with the situation. TVision's low-priced bundle breaches that agreement.

"The pricing structure for TVision would be quite different if they were abiding by their agreement," one observer noted.

In response to what Zaslav said, a T-Mobile spokesman provided a statement.

“TVision is off to a great start! The Un-carrier has always been about listening to customers and solving their pain points, and that’s what we’re doing with TVision. And clearly, the TV business has a lot of pain points to solve! We also want to be a great partner to media companies. We are of course complying with our content agreements, and we are absolutely open to evolving our services to make them even better for consumers. We are just getting started,” the statement said.

ViacomCBS and NBCU declined to comment. 

The dispute with T-Mobile comes as Discovery is getting closer to announcing details of its own direct-to-consumer streaming package that will include all of the Discovery brands.

Zaslav has said Discovery is looking to work with partners to distribute what is likely to be called Discovery Plus, so it would probably want to resolve its dispute with T-Mobile quickly.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.