Fox Networks Group Reaches Carriage Deal With AT&T

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Fox Network Group reached a new long-term carriage deal with AT&T.The deal comes as AT&T is fighting a U.S. Justice Department appeal of a court’s decision to approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner.

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The new deal covers retransmission consent for Fox TV stations in 17 cities and 22 Fox-owned regional sports networks. It also includes cable networks FS1, FS2, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, BabyTV, and Spanish-language services Fox Deportes, Nat Geo Mundo and Fox Life, as well as the Fox Soccer Plus pay-per-view service.

AT&T’s video platforms include DirecTV, DirecTVNow and AT&T U-verse.

“We are pleased to have closed a multi-year deal with Fox for their entire array of content. Our customers will continue to enjoy their programming live and on-demand on all their devices, both at home and on-the-go,” said Daniel York, chief content officer and senior executive VP for AT&T Communications. “Fox has worked with us in this deal to deliver more choice for consumers and better value to AT&T customers.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We’re pleased to expand our partnership with AT&T through this wide-ranging agreement which ensures that our top-rated entertainment and sports programming will remain broadly available to DirecTV, DirecTVNow and U-Verse customers for the foreseeable future,” said Mike Biard, Fox Networks Group president of distribution.

Rival distributors have complained that the combination of AT&T’s distribution businesses—including DirecTV—and the Time Warner programming assets, such as Turner’s TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network and HBO—give it an unfair advantage.

Settling with Fox relatively quietly helps AT&T with its current dispute with Dish Network.

Dish Network in November blacked out HBO, which is now part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit. Dish is claiming that AT&T is planning to sell HBO programming to subscribers at lower prices than it is charging Dish and intends to use its control of HBO to steal subscribers,

“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming. “It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors.

In October, John Donovan, head of AT&T’s communications unit, said the company would be reviewing its pay TV programming lineups. Its DirecTV satellite unit is losing subscribers and the company is looking to skinnier streaming bundles as a way to attract consumers and bolster its wireless business.

“We’re evaluating our channel lineups and taking a fresh look at how we can align content cost with the price,” Donovan said.

Analyst Douglas Mitchelson of Credit Suisse noted that AT&T had pay TV renewals coming up with Fox, CBS, Viacom and Disney and possibly other programmers.

“Whether [AT&T] will be willing to outright drop network groups to achieve its ambitions will be closely watched," Mitchelson said in a research note.

AT&T’s Donovan said that the company is going to realign its video products in 2019.

“We’re refining our four video products, tailoring them to customer needs,” he said.

Fox is in the process of selling its entertainment cable networks—FX, FXX, National Geographic Channel—and its TV and movie studios to the Walt Disney Co.