At first glance, a new battle between Fox Sports 1 and AT&T U-verse would appear to be the latest in a very long line of skirmishes between media companies and video-distribution outlets over prices for programming. But this one has a twist: Fox Sports 1 will continue to be shown on the AT&T service, even though some of its bigger events may not.
The 21st Century Fox-owned sports cable network said Friday it would not show some major events to AT&T U-verse subscribers, including Saturday’s Nascar Xfinity Series race from Atlanta; eight other Nascar Xfinity series races; 17 Big East Conference basketball games, eight United States Golf Association events; and many Major League Soccer matches, unless the two sides could come to new terms.
AT&T said it would not pay the extra costs Fox Sports required for such events. “Fox Sports 1 is asking AT&T to pay additional fees for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Big East Basketball Games, as well as U.S. Golf Association tournaments. While it’s important to us that we provide our customers with the content they want, we don’t believe that it is reasonable to pass on the added costs of carrying this programming to our customer,” the company said in a statement.” Our strategy has always been to carry the sports our customers want most, but only through fair deals for our customers and our business. We won’t agree to a deal that would cause our customers to pay unreasonable rates.”
Showdowns between TV networks and the outlets that bring their programs into consumers’ homes have increased in recent years, all part of a desire by media companies to increase the subscriber fees they obtain from carriage deals with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and the like. Those fees represent a stable source of income at a time when many advertisers are investing money in digital and taking some away from TV.
In many cases, however, those conflicts are all-or-nothing deals. If the two parties can’t come to an agreement, the entire network goes dark. Such has been the case with recent flare-ups between Weather Channel and DirecTV or Fox News Channel and Dish.
In the current fight, Fox Sports 1 is trying to get paid for programming that was not in place when its carriage deal with AT&T was established. Nascar signed a new deal in 2013 that moved its events to Fox and NBC from Walt Disney’s ESPN and Time Warner’s Turner Sports for this year. Many of the other events at the center of the new dispute were also added to Fox Sports 1 after it secured carriage rights.
AT&T U-verse has approximately 6 million subscribers, according to market research firm SNL Kagan.
Fox Sports 1 said it had made “attempts to negotiate an agreement that extends to these events.” Unless each side’s stance changes, U-verse subscribers may miss out on a Nascar race tomorrow.