AT&T U-verse Customers Lose Scripps Networks Programming

Latest content dispute and blackout comes after short-term extensions.


NEW YORK -- Here we go again!

AT&T U-verse customers early Friday morning lost Scripps Networks channels HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country in the latest programming dispute to rock the industry.

The two have been locked in talks for a while and have continued carriage under short-term extensions. The issue once again is how much AT&T, which has 2.7 million U-verse video subscribers, should pay for Scripps and how extensively it can use the programming. In statements early Friday, the two parties engaged in finger-pointing.

"Let me start by saying this impasse is not about money," said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks, in a statement. "We reached an agreement in principle with AT&T U-verse on the distribution fees we would receive for these networks well in advance of last month's contract deadline."

However, the distributor "demanded unreasonably broad video rights for emerging media where business models have not even been established," Lansing said, adding his company was "shocked and disappointed."

AT&T U-verse's side of the story was slightly different.

"Our team has been working for weeks to reach a fair agreement, but Scripps Networks ultimately refused to put in writing key terms that had been agreed upon verbally, leaving our customers without a fair deal as our extended contract expired," the company said. "Unfortunately, this is yet another example of a network punishing its own viewers for leverage in programming negotiations."

AT&T suggested that Scripps "has yet to provide a proposal that gives AT&T a choice in the channels we carry and pay for." Scripps also wants a "premium price for inferior access to their content for our customers on other platforms, even though other competitors get this at much lower prices," it said.

At the beginning of the year, Scripps went off the Cablevision Systems cable systems in another carriage dispute.