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AT&T Settles Byron Allen Racial Discrimination Lawsuit, Picks Up 7 Channels

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has secured distribution for its seven cable channels across DirecTV and U-verse now that AT&T has settled a racial discrimination lawsuit filed in December 2014.

DirecTV began carriage of Entertainment Studios’ Comedy.TV and Justice Central.TV on Monday. U-verse has added Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, ES.TV, MyDestination.TV, Cars TV and Pets TV; U-verse already carried Justice Central.TV.

Of the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles, reps for Entertainment Studios and AT&T would only say: “The matter has been resolved.”

The AT&T deal greatly enhances the distribution base and value of the lifestyle and entertainment channels, which are wholly owned by Allen, a comedian turned entrepreneur. DirecTV and U-verse together reach nearly 26 million domestic subscribers, with U-verse accounting for about 6 million subscribers..

Allen has a similar racial discrimination lawsuit pending against Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

In the complaint against AT&T, the National Association of African-American Owned Media, an affiliate of Century City-based Entertainment Studios, claimed racial discrimination over the fact that Entertainment Studio had no luck securing a carriage deal with DirecTV after years of trying to engage executives in negotiations.

The suit came as AT&T was vulnerable to PR concerns about its image in dealing with independent programmers and minority-owned businesses. The telco giant was in the midst of securing federal approval for its $48 billion takeover of DirecTV, which closed in July.

Allen’s complaint blasted AT&T for having no carriage agreements with “100% African-American-owned media companies.” It made a provocative reference to what it called the practice of African-American celebrities posing as “fronts” for channels owned by “white-owned media,” without naming names.

The complaint also took a swipe at the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the NAACP and National Urban League, claiming AT&T was “paying off” civil rights orgs to secure their endorsement of the AT&T-DirecTV merger.

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