AMC Networks accuses AT&T of abusing MVPD market power

When AT&T acquired Time Warner in 2018, it pledged to not discriminate against other programmers. AMC Networks says that the conglomerate is going back on its word.

In a complaint filed with the FCC, AMC Networks accused AT&T of “attempting to stifle AMC’s ability to compete fairly by using its colossal market power as a vertically integrated MVPD to disadvantage AMCN’s linear networks” including AMC and the new streaming bundle AMC+. The programmer said AT&T is favoring its own affiliated networks including HBO and TNT.

Many parts of the complaint are redacted but AMC Networks’ comments suggest that AT&T has presented it with discriminatory carriage agreement terms.

“These terms are extremely atypical in the marketplace, where AMC is widely distributed and compensated fairly,” wrote AMC Networks.

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AMC Networks has asked the FCC to order AT&T to carry AMC and AMC+ (along with AMC’s other programming networks) on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates, terms and conditions, and to make AT&T pay a fine to the FCC for violating program carriage rules.

AT&T responded to AMC Networks’ complaint, which it said is “without merit.”

“We treat all programmers fairly and will continue to work with AMC Networks to provide its content at a price that is reasonable to our customers," an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. "But, the cost to provide that programming should reflect that AMC Networks’ shows have been declining in popularity as compared to their peers for several years. AMC’s plea to the FCC doesn’t acknowledge our TV services collectively represent only 15 percent of U.S. television households, and in nearly every market across the country, consumers have two or more competing options that carry AMC Network’s portfolio of channels.”

For the second quarter for 2020, AT&T posted a net loss of 886,000 premium TV (DirecTV, U-verse) subscribers and a net loss of 68,000 AT&T TV Now subscribers. The company ended the quarter with 17.69 million premium pay TV subscribers and 720,000 AT&T TV Now subscribers.