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Clock ticking on carriage agreement between AT & T, Crown Media

Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:15am
Mike Robuck

Another carriage agreement showdown looms with AT&T and Crown Media's current deal, slated to expire at midnight on Tuesday.

If a new accord isn't reached, Crown Media's Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel could go dark for AT&T U-verse customers.

Crown Media issued a press release yesterday that said AT&T was notifying its customers about the possibility that the channels could go off the air if a new deal wasn't completed.

"AT&T U-verse TV recently went through a notable carriage renewal and is implementing the scare tactics it used to negotiate with another programmer against Hallmark Channels, one of the nation's last surviving independent cable networks," said Joan Gundlach, Crown Media's executive vice president of distribution. "It is disappointing that AT&T U-verse does not see the value we bring to their customers and that they would wield their power to strong-arm our channels."

AT&T and Rainbow Media recently went through a carriage agreement of their own that had some viewers worried that they would miss the premiere of Rainbow Media-owned AMC show "Mad Men" before a deal was reached.

AT&T issued its own statement yesterday that said Crown Media was making unreasonable and inflexible demands.

"Frankly, we're surprised that Hallmark has decided to take its negotiations public instead of working with us in good faith, especially since we've made numerous offers to Hallmark," AT&T's statement said. "We're disappointed that Hallmark is acting in a way that may punish viewers and is trying to charge AT&T more than what similarly sized and smaller TV competitors pay for these channels. We want to continue to carry the channels under terms similar to our current agreement.

"We don't want customers to lose their programming. We're fighting for a fair deal because our customers deserve the programming they want at a fair price. We want to reach an agreement that is fair to our subscribers and for all parties, as we have with numerous other content providers."

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