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Fuse Media, which owns the cable TV and streaming video network Fuse and the music video service FM, has accused AT&T and its DirecTV service of discrimination in a program carriage complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
In the complaint, Fuse alleges that AT&T and DirecTV made an “untenable and likely unserious” offer for carriage, and only made the offer after prodding from Fuse. Fuse also argues that AT&T is giving preferential treatment to its own cable channels, which include TBS and TruTV.
“AT&T’s actions would not only harm Fuse and restrain its ability to compete fairly with TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim, and TruTV; they would likely result in catastrophic harm that threatens Fuse Media’s continuing existence,” the company wrote in the complaint.
“Fuse Media is an independent, minority-owned and led media company, and is in fact the only remaining cable network that is Latino-owned, controlled and managed,” Fuse media said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Since January, Fuse has been the last English-language network carried by AT&T that serves Latinos. If AT&T truly values minority voices, then their words must match their actions, especially during a time in which our nation is undergoing a seismic social awakening. We are hopeful that AT&T will reverse course and negotiate in good faith moving forward.”
“We treat all programmers fairly, including Fuse,” an AT&T spokesperson told THR in a statement reacting to Fuse’s complaint. “They want the FCC to order us to carry programming our customers don’t want or value. We look forward to responding.”
The dispute comes less than a month after Fuse was sold to an investor group led by its CEO Miguel “Mike” Roggero and his management team. Fuse launched in 2003 (it predecessor channel, MuchMusic USA, launched in 1994) as part of the Dolan family’s Cablevision business, which folded it into Madison Square Garden Company in 2010, and subsequently sold its stake in the cable channel in 2014.
While large cable channels that are part of major entertainment giants have seen their carriage decline over the past few years, continued cord-cutting has hit small and independent cable channels like Fuse particularly hard. This is now the second major distribution fight being waged by the independent programmer in recent years, after Fuse was dropped by Comcast at the end of 2018.
“Comcast’s termination of Fuse was the principal factor leading to Fuse’s bankruptcy in early 2019,” the company told the FCC. “Now Fuse is faced with the same existential threat, now in the hands of the other major vertically integrated distributor.”
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