Please visit KeepViacom.com for full information.

Viacom has begun warning viewers that its networks might be dropped by AT&T’s U-Verse and DirecTV.

The media giant started running spots featuring its networks at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Nickelodeon’s spot warns that viewers could soon be missing out on Viacom’s 22-plus channels and urges them to call AT&T to keep the networks available. Meanwhile, Comedy Central’s spot features Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show delivering the message that Viacom’s channels could go dark if no deal is reached in time. Viacom’s current contract with AT&T’s DirecTV is set to expire midnight ET on Friday, March 22, 2019. Viewers are advised to visit Please visit KeepViacom.com for more information.

In a statement, Viacom said it was the top cable family on the AT&T service and said that it has made offers to AT&T that would allow subscribers to keep Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount while lowering cable bills.

“Viacom is the No. 1 cable family serving key customers and communities on AT&T-DirecTV’s services across kids, teens, 18-49, African Americans and Hispanics. We have made a series of offers that are good for consumers and good for AT&T – giving subscribers more access to the Viacom channels they love, including Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount, while enabling AT&T-DirecTV to lower customers’ bills in the process.

Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content – which significantly underperforms Viacom’s – to stifle competition. AT&T-DirecTV’s behavior is also consistent with a recent pattern of gouging their customers by charging them higher prices for an inferior product with fewer channels. Especially troubling, AT&T-DirecTV is marginalizing diverse audiences in its new DTV packages and threatening to do the same with their existing products.

Viacom is committed to developing strong relationships with our distribution partners. We have successfully renewed a series of distribution relationships representing more than half our subscriber base over the last two years and have not had a disruption in our service since 2014. While we continue to make every effort to reach a new carriage agreement, AT&T’s unwillingness to engage in constructive conversations unfortunately could force a disruption in service.”

AT&T, which acquired Time Warner last year, has promised to be aggressive about programming costs on its pay-TV services, particularly DirecTV, which has been losing subscribers.

Last week, AT&T said it was raising the price on its DirecTV Now virtual MVPD service and rearranged some of its programming packages, removing networks from Viacom, AMC Networks and Discovery.

Viacom notes that if AT&T blacks out its networks on Friday, viewers will be missing key events including Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards 2019, airing Saturday, new episodes of Double Dare, Knight Squad, and Henry Danger, and BET’s one-hour primetime news special American Injustice featuring Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who are also presidential candidates.

From Variety:

Viacom Goes to War With AT&T Over DirecTV Carriage Deal

Viacom has declared war against AT&T, blasting the telco giant on several fronts as the companies wrestle over a carriage renewal deal that is vital to Viacom’s long-term financial health.

As of today, Viacom has begun running crawls and promo spots on its channels warning viewers that Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and other channels could go dark on AT&T’s DirecTV as of midnight ET on Friday, when the current contract expires.

A Viacom spokesman accused AT&T of everything from price gouging to discriminating against “diverse audiences” with the channel selections in its latest packages of skinny bundles for the DirecTV Now and Watch TV streaming platforms.

“Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content – which significantly underperforms Viacom’s – to stifle competition,” a Viacom spokesman said. “AT&T-DirecTV’s behavior is also consistent with a recent pattern of gouging their customers by charging them higher prices for an inferior product with fewer channels. Especially troubling, AT&T-DirecTV is marginalizing diverse audiences in its new DTV packages and threatening to do the same with their existing products.”

DirecTV could not immediately be reached for comment. Carriage battles between programmers and traditional MVPD distributors have ratcheted in recent years as the pay-TV marketplace has grappled with cord cutting and a flood of low-cost competitors.

The Viacom-DirecTV battle has the makings of a clash of media titans because both companies are under pressure to strike an advantageous deal.

Viacom needs to have its two dozen cablers carried by the nation’s largest MVPD, with about 25 million domestic subscribers. Viacom also needs to make sure that the rates DirecTV pays for its channels aren’t severely reduced. If so, Viacom would take a big revenue hit and it would have a domino effect with other large distributors that have favored-nations provisions in carriage deals that would allow them to also cut fees paid to Viacom.

Viacom has faced rate cuts with other distributors including the deal it struck with Charter Communications in 2017. The terms on the table from DirecTV must be significantly lower to prompt such an aggressive campaign from Viacom.

AT&T, on the other hand, is shouldering a heavy debt load and a shrinking domestic subscriber base for DirecTV. Growth at AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Watch TV skinny bundle streaming services has also slowed, as AT&T disclosed in its first quarter earnings. AT&T has let it be known that it will take a hard line with programmers in upcoming carriage deals given the state of DirecTV’s subscriber base.

“We’ve had very good success so far getting to a rationalization of those content costs,” AT&T chairman-CEO Randall Stephenson said in January. “We think this is an equation we can balance…We’ve got to get the content costs in line with what the customer is willing to pay.”

Viacom is encouraging viewers to put pressure on DirecTV to renew the channels via the KeepViacom.com website. In a memo to Viacom employees, CEO Bob Bakish raised the specter of AT&T abusing its market power at the expense of Viacom and consumers now that it is fortified with the Time Warner assets it acquired last June after it prevailed over the Justice Department in a long antitrust fight.

“AT&T continues to insist on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market,” Bakish wrote. “Having recently acquired Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, who are growing increasingly dissatisfied with paying more for less.”

Here is the full memo from Bakish:

Team,

Over the past two years, we’ve made incredible progress in strengthening and evolving our domestic distribution business.

Not only have we secured more carriage for our brands with existing partners and new, we’ve also expanded the definition of partnership to include new elements, like advanced advertising and co-production arrangements. In the process, we’ve renewed and extended more than half of our subscriber base, securing deals with Altice, Charter, Comcast and others, to give audiences greater access to our brands, and more choice in how they consume our content – most recently in the Charter Essentials product, which Charter announced a few weeks ago.

In that same spirit of partnership, Viacom has been working to negotiate an agreement with AT&T to renew distribution of our channels on DirecTV and AT&T video services. We’ve made a series of offers that are both good for consumers and good for AT&T – giving subscribers more access to the Viacom channels they love, while enabling AT&T to lower subscribers’ bills and provide customers with a variety of packages and price points. Importantly, our offers would ensure that AT&T is able to continue serving the diverse audiences that prefer Viacom to any other cable programmer. And, consistent with our other recent distribution deals, we want to work with AT&T on new opportunities that go beyond traditional carriage.

Despite these efforts, AT&T continues to insist on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market. Having recently acquired Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, who are growing increasingly dissatisfied with paying more for less.

Because of AT&T’s unreasonable position, today we began to warn subscribers that they may lose our channels when our contract expires on Friday, March 22. This would be our first disruption since 2014, so we remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement that fairly values the amazing entertainment brought to life by our brands, and by your talent, creativity and hard work.

I realize that many of you, and your families and friends may be AT&T-DirecTV subscribers. Please feel free to share a link to http://www.keepviacom.com, which will be updated with relevant news and information.

Of course, we’ll continue to update you as this situation develops over the next few days.

Best,

Bob

###

From Deadline:

Viacom Warns Viewers A Potential DirecTV-U-Verse Blackout Is Just Days Away

Setting the stage for the next major pay-TV carriage battle, Viacom is rolling out ads across Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and other networks warning viewers that DirecTV and U-verse soon could be pulling the plug.

Viacom and AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse systems are nearing the deadline of their current carriage agreement, which expires at midnight ET on Friday (9pm PT). The saber-rattling follows AT&T’s decision last week to drop Viacom networks from the basic tier of its new DirecTV Now packages.

In a statement, Viacom said it has “made a series of offers that are good for consumers and good for AT&T,” but got a cool reception on the other side of the negotiating table.

Like Dish Network and other rivals of AT&T, Viacom is blaming the dispute in part on the makeup of the newly constituted AT&T. The telecom giant owns the No. 1 traditional satellite operator, DirecTV, cable operator U-verse (which has just shy of 4 million subscribers) and WarnerMedia’s potent mix of TV and film content. During the 16-month legal showdown with the government, which sued to try to block AT&T’s $81 billion acquisition of Time Warner, competitors argued that the combined company would use distribution and programming assets as a weapon to harm rivals and, therefore, customers.

“Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content – which significantly underperforms Viacom’s – to stifle competition,” Viacom’s statement continued. “AT&T-DirecTV’s behavior is also consistent with a recent pattern of gouging their customers by charging them higher prices for an inferior product with fewer channels. Especially troubling, AT&T-DirecTV is marginalizing diverse audiences in its new DTV packages and threatening to do the same with their existing products.

“Viacom is committed to developing strong relationships with our distribution partners. We have successfully renewed a series of distribution relationships representing more than half our subscriber base over the last two years and have not had a disruption in our service since 2014. While we continue to make every effort to reach a new carriage agreement, AT&T’s unwillingness to engage in constructive conversations unfortunately could force a disruption in service.”

AT&T did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment.

At the same time it is warning customers, Viacom is also trying to buck up internal morale. Last week, when DirecTV Now dropped Viacom from a basic tier of its skinny bundle, the company’s stock dropped (along with those of Discovery and AMC Networks) and questions were raised once again about the company’s trajectory. The rebuff came after two years of progress by CEO Bob Bakish.

The new leader has set about repairing the distribution relationships that had deteriorated badly under predecessor Philippe Dauman. Despite waning ratings and a transforming TV bundle environment, Dauman took a hyper-aggressive negotiating stance and the result was a series of pitched and costly battles. Viacom and Suddenlink, which is now part of Altice, had a blackout that lasted three years.

Here is the full text of Bakish’s memo to employees:

Team,

Over the past two years, we’ve made incredible progress in strengthening and evolving our domestic distribution business.

Not only have we secured more carriage for our brands with existing partners and new, we’ve also expanded the definition of partnership to include new elements, like advanced advertising and co-production arrangements. In the process, we’ve renewed and extended more than half of our subscriber base, securing deals with Altice, Charter, Comcast and others, to give audiences greater access to our brands, and more choice in how they consume our content – most recently in the Charter Essentials product, which Charter announced a few weeks ago.

In that same spirit of partnership, Viacom has been working to negotiate an agreement with AT&T to renew distribution of our channels on DirecTV and AT&T video services. We’ve made a series of offers that are both good for consumers and good for AT&T – giving subscribers more access to the Viacom channels they love, while enabling AT&T to lower subscribers’ bills and provide customers with a variety of packages and price points. Importantly, our offers would ensure that AT&T is able to continue serving the diverse audiences that prefer Viacom to any other cable programmer. And, consistent with our other recent distribution deals, we want to work with AT&T on new opportunities that go beyond traditional carriage.

Despite these efforts, AT&T continues to insist on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market. Having recently acquired Time Warner, AT&T appears intent on using its new market power to prioritize its own content at the expense of consumers, who are growing increasingly dissatisfied with paying more for less.

Because of AT&T’s unreasonable position, today we began to warn subscribers that they may lose our channels when our contract expires on Friday, March 22. This would be our first disruption since 2014, so we remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement that fairly values the amazing entertainment brought to life by our brands, and by your talent, creativity and hard work.

I realize that many of you, and your families and friends may be AT&T-DirecTV subscribers. Please feel free to share a link to http://www.keepviacom.com, which will be updated with relevant news and information.

Of course, we’ll continue to update you as this situation develops over the next few days.

Best,

Bob

###

From Broadcasting & Cable:

Viacom Warning Viewers About AT&T Blackout

Contract expires at midnight Friday

Viacom has begun warning viewers that its networks might be dropped by AT&T’s U-Verse and DirecTV.

The programmer started running spots featuring its networks at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. In one spot, Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Centrals’s Daily Show warns that viewers could soon be missing out on Viacom’s 22-plus channels and urges them to call AT&T to keep the networks available.

In a statement, Viacom said it was the top cable family on the AT&T service and said that it has made offers to AT&T that would allow subscribers to keep Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount while lowering cable bills.

“Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content – which significantly underperforms Viacom’s – to stifle competition. AT&T-DirecTV’s behavior is also consistent with a recent pattern of gouging their customers by charging them higher prices for an inferior product with fewer channels. Especially troubling, AT&T-DirecTV is marginalizing diverse audiences in its new DTV packages and threatening to do the same with their existing products,” Viacom said.

“Viacom is committed to developing strong relationships with our distribution partners. We have successfully renewed a series of distribution relationships representing more than half our subscriber base over the last two years and have not had a disruption in our service since 2014. While we continue to make every effort to reach a new carriage agreement, AT&T’s unwillingness to engage in constructive conversations unfortunately could force a disruption in service.”

AT&T, which acquired Time Warner last year, has promised to be aggressive about programming costs on its pay-TV services, particularly DirecTV, which has been losing subscribers.

Last week, AT&T said it was raising the price on its DirecTV Now virtual MVPD service and rearranged some of its programming packages, removing networks from Viacom, AMC Networks and Discovery.

Viacom notes that if AT&T blacks out its networks on Friday, viewers will be missing key events including the Kids Choice Awards on Satuday and BET’s one-hour primetime news special American Injustice featuring Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who are also presidential candidates.

###

H/T: Huge thanks to @TVShowsFan for the news!; Additional source: PopCulture.


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