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Univision Blasts ‘Discriminatory Behavior’ as Stations Go Dark on AT&T’s U-verse

Univision-owned stations went dark on AT&T’s U-verse platform early Friday, prompting the Spanish-language broadcaster to blast the telecom giant for “discriminatory behavior” and audience “redlining” in retransmission consent negotiations.

Univision asserted that AT&T would not agree to retrans terms for Univision’s stations that are commensurate with fees paid to the English-language stations. AT&T disputed that characterization, accusing Univision of seeking “an outrageous price increase.” AT&T also said it hoped to resolve the blackout soon.

Univision owns 60 stations serving 19 markets, including Puerto Rico, that are affiliated with the mothership network and its UniMas broadcast sibling. The U-verse dispute affects Univision-owned stations in 29 cities, as well as Univision’s national feeds for its networks in 43 other cities, plus the feeds for seven channels offering a mix of vintage movies, telenovelas and music. The signals and feeds went dark as of midnight ET on Thursday.

“Despite Univision’s tireless efforts to reach an agreement, AT&T is denying its U-verse customers access to our networks and stations, which have the most popular Spanish-language news, sports and entertainment. AT&T is redlining our audience by refusing to recognize the value of the Univision networks and the consumers we serve,” Univision said in a statement.

“AT&T’s discriminatory behavior is preventing Hispanic America from receiving content and information in language and in culture, which is especially vital during this election year. These disputes can be confusing for consumers, but in our case it’s simple: we must receive fair compensation, on par with English language broadcasters,” Univision said.

U-verse serves about 5.9 million subscribers. The telco platform launched video service in 2006, but U-verse is now taking a backseat within AT&T to the larger DirecTV, which AT&T acquired for $49 billion last year. There was speculation that AT&T might shift U-verse customers who complained about the loss of Univision to DirecTV — something that would suit AT&T larger goals.

“Univision has blocked our U-verse customers from receiving most of their channels. This is about nothing more than Univision demanding we pay an outrageous price increase,” AT&T said in a statement. “We are fighting for all of our customers to keep what Univision charges at a reasonable amount. Numerous and diverse programming deals we have signed recently prove this can be accomplished. We hope to resolve this matter quickly and appreciate our customers’ patience.”

AT&T also responded to Univision’s charge that ethnic discrimination is playing a role in the dispute.

“Spanish-language channels are important to us and our customers. That’s why we carry 78 Spanish-language channels,” AT&T said.

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