WSOC-TV warned viewers on Friday that AT&T/DirecTV could drop the ABC affiliate at 3 a.m. New Year’s Day.
“I am disappointed that my company and AT&T appear to be reaching an impasse that could lead to a disruption in WSOC-TV’s service for AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV subscribers,” Joe Pomilla, WSOC-TV's vice president and general manager, said in a statement on Twitter.
“In just the past few weeks, we have reached agreements with some of the largest video distributors in the country,” Pomilla said. “At this point, every distributor besides AT&T/DirecTV has reached a long-term agreement to continue carrying WSOC-TV. AT&T/DirecTV is the lone holdout.”
Pomilla said WSOC-TV asks that AT&T/DirecTV offer “a fair deal that adequately values WSOC-TV’s award-winning news, sports, entertainment, weather and traffic programming. The fees cable and satellite companies pay us go to fund these important local services. Accepting unreasonable fees from AT&T/DirecTV would lead to less local news, less local sports, less local weather, and less community involvement by WSOC-TV.”
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AT&T/DirecTV’s size and market power “lets it ignore individual communities like Charlotte and its surrounding communities and deprive viewers of programming they need in order to improve their bottom line,” Pomilla said. “Now AT&T wants to get even bigger by merging with Time Warner, which provides national cable programming but no local content. If AT&T’s assault on local television continues, Washington may need to step in and stop that merger.”
In a statement Friday, AT&T said: “We want to keep WSOC and WAXN in our DIRECTV and U-verse customers’ local lineups but their owner, Cox Broadcasting, is threatening to block both stations from reaching those homes unless they receive a significant increase in fees – just to allow the same families to keep watching shows that remain available for free over-the-air on channels 9 and 64 and that ABC typically streams for free at abc.com and to fans using the WatchABC app.
“Cox has suspended its stations briefly from TV providers’ customers before, so we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably,” AT&T said.
WSOC-TV’s programming will remain available for viewers over the air, and the AT&T/DirecTV dispute will not affect customers of any other provider – cable, satellite or any other, the station said.