DirecTV customers might find themselves losing a ton of channels on Friday thanks to AT&T's ongoing dispute with Viacom over their carriage agreement. Viacom has started to roll out ads across their various networks, including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, warning subscribers that AT&T will soon pull the plug.
The reason for the standoff stems from the expiration of Viacom's current carriage agreement with AT&T on 12 a.m. ET on Friday. If no deal is reached by then, the channels owned by Viacom will be removed from DirecTV and its U-Verse platform.
To make matters worse, AT&T recently decided to drop Viacom networks from the basic tier of its DirecTV Now package according to Deadline. Viacom made their stance very clear in a statement saying they "made a series of offers that are good for consumers and good for AT&T," but not so good for their own company.
This is far from the first carriage dispute we've seen in recent years, but it is one of the first since DirecTV was purchased by AT&T in 2015. This has been a point of contention with rivals like Dish Network, with AT&T owning the top traditional satellite operator with DirecTV, the top cable operator in U-verse and the bulk of content belonging to WarnerMedia. According to Deadline, the merger itself was a 16-month battle with the government over the idea that it would end up giving AT&T unfair advantages that would eventually harm customers. Viacom referenced this in their statement.
"Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content -- which significantly underperforms Viacom's -- to stifle competition," Viacom laid out in their statement. "Viacom is committed to developing strong relationships with our 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."
Viacom is attempting to boost its own morale at the same time. After their networks were dropped from DirecTV Now's basic tier, stocks at Viacom dropped along with those for Discovery and AMC Networks. It is the first real challenge in the two years since CEO Bob Bakish took on the position.
In a memo to employees, Bakish talked about the progress made over the past two years and ongoing negotiations with AT&T.1comments
"We've made a series of offers that are both good for subscribers 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," Bakish stated in the memo. "despite these efforts, AT&T continues to insist on unreasonable and extreme terms that are totally inconsistent with the market."
Viacom has set up the website Keep Viacom to inform customers about the situation from their point of view. The current deal will expire on Friday unless an agreement can be struck in the final moments.