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Rainbow, AT&T U-Verse in carriage dispute

AT&T threatens to drop AMC, IFC, WeTV days before 'Mad Men' premiere

Negotiations to renew AT&T U-Verse’s agreement with Rainbow Media to carry cable networks AMC, IFC and WeTV are coming down to the wire, with AT&T threatening to drop the channels at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, 10 days before the season premiere of AMC bellwether series “Mad Men.”

The contract between the two parties expires Wednesday, and AT&T U-Verse has begun notifying its approximately 2.3 million subscribers that the networks might disappear from its offerings.

Rainbow is countering with an on-air, online (iwantmytvchannels.com), phone and social media campaign that will include onscreen crawls beneath shows on U-Verse.

Carriage disputes like these have become more common in recent months, such as when News Corp.-owned Fox stations went to the mat with Time Warner Cable right before New Year’s Day and the major college bowl games. In March, viewers in New York missed the opening minutes of ABC’s Academy Awards broadcast due to a showdown between Disney and Cablevision.

The Dolan family owns Cablevision and Rainbow Media as separate entities.

Though insiders are optimistic of a timely resolution between AT&T and Rainbow, for the time being the saber-rattling is getting underway.

“AT&T is acting in an aggressive manner that puts their corporate interests ahead of their customers,” Rainbow said in a statement today. “We are negotiating in good faith with AT&T and are hopeful that we can reach an agreement as soon as possible so that our viewers don’t lose out.”

Earlier, AT&T sent a letter to the Department of Public Utility Control in Connecticut that said in part: “This is a rare circumstance for AT&T. Our contracts with programmers for the content displayed on our U-Verse TV service periodically expire, but are usually re-negotiated or extended and there is no interruption or change for the customer. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we have not yet been able to obtain reasonable terms from Rainbow Networks to continue to provide the channels.”

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