Deal brings 24 channels to U-verse lineup

AT&T has signed a deal to carry 24 networks owned by Viacom as part of the channel lineup AT&T has put together to compete with cable and satellite.

Dubbed U-verse TV, the AT&T service has begun operations in just one market so far, San Antonio. The telco launched U-verse June 26 with more than 200 cable networks in the package, covering an area of the city reaching about 5,000 homes. (AT&T will not say how many homes are actually buying the service.)

The networks most conspicuous by their absence from U-verse are Lifetime and its LMN and Real Women spinoffs, and Cablevision’s threesome of AMC, WE: Women’s Entertainment and IFC.

But the Viacom deal gives AT&T access to the seven major cable-network providers. The six others are Disney, Fox, NBC Universal, Turner Networks, Discovery Communications and A&E/History Channel.

Beyond San Antonio, an AT&T spokeswoman said Houston is on the drawing boards for U-verse, one of between15 and 20 markets slated to open for business before the year is out. AT&T’s goal is to reach 19 million households with U-verse by the end of 2008.

The Viacom deal with AT&T includes such networks as MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike TV, TV Land, BET and CMT.

The contract also covers the free video-on-demand channels programmed by these networks, the high-definition channel MHD, and MTV’s ethnic networks: MTV Chi, MTV Desi and MTV K. MTV’s Urge radio service is also in the mix.

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