AT&T U-Verse Axes Food Network, HGTV, Others In Latest Cable Cockfight

2.7 million AT&T U-Verse customers are now without their Alton Brown or Iron Chef after the cable company was unable to come to an agreement with Scripps Networks about fees and other issues regarding their channels like the Food Network, HGTV, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country.

In a statement, the president of Scripps said that the two companies had agreed in principle on carriage fees well ahead of the deadline. He claims that the impasse in the negotiations involves AT&T U-verse’s demands for rights to use video from the Scripps channels for non-TV platforms.

Sez the Scripps prez:

AT&T U-verse demanded unreasonably broad video rights for emerging media where business models have not even been established… Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our content to our viewers in new and innovative ways.

For its part, AT&T U-Verse is standing by its previous statement that “we’ve been working for weeks to reach a fair deal, but they didn’t hold up to what had been agreed upon verbally, leaving us without the rights to offer these channels. We apologize to our customers who’ve been affected by this. We want to keep these channels on, at a fair price for you.”

AT&T U-verse drops HGTV, Food Network other family-friendly networks from its channel lineup [MarketWatch]

Food Network president blasts AT&T U-verse for turning off channels [Chicago Tribune]

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  1. momtimestwo says:

    I’m glad I still have comcast. I know I seem to be the only person in the world that has never had a problem with them, but I never have I think I would cry a little if they cut off HGTV. How can I live without House Hunters International?

    • ajlei says:

      Seriously!! I love Color Splash and Deserving Design, too.

      • momtimestwo says:

        I love Color Splash Miami, Holmes on Homes, House Hunters/International, Curb Appeal, Real Estate Intervention, Selling New York, and Property Virgins. I also love the one, forgot the name, where the people want to rent out a space and the guy comes in and demos it.

    • tbax929 says:

      HHI is my absolute favorite show on TV. I even watch repeats of it. I tolerate the domestic HH and Property Virgins, but HHI is the reason I had to have HGTV in hi def.

    • Michaela says:

      Luckily, they offer free episodes on HHI on hulu.

  2. Kitten Mittens says:

    And again, the consumer pays the price…

    One day, we’ll be able to cut out the cable/satellite middlemen and just get our information straight from the tap.

    • Etoiles says:

      Except the problem is: content companies need a lot of money in order to produce content. TV is expensive to make and HD TV more so. Plus, they’re in it for a profit, on top of just recouping expenses.

      So they make money two ways: one, through ad sales, and two, through fees paid by cable / satellite companies.

      I’m not saying it’s right and I’m not saying it’s good; I personally watch about 95% of all my TV these days delayed, via Netflix streaming or occasionally Hulu. From a content company’s point of view, I’m part of the problem, because the ways I watch don’t generate them any revenue. So far, digital distribution doesn’t really make much money for any of the content folks (Scripps, Discovery, etc).

      I do think a solution will eventually arise that takes crappy distribution companies out of it, but I think that solution might be a longer time coming than seems at first blush reasonable.

      • pawnblue says:

        Except the way you watch does generate revenue. They get money from Hulu’s adds and Netflix pays a streaming fee.

        I don’t understand how our culture shifted. When did we go from “customer is always right” to “if I don’t pay up, this huge corporation will be slightly less profitable”?

        It’s the business’s job to make money. It’s your job to enjoy yourself. If you enjoy watching time shifted programming, it’s their job to figure out the revenue.

    • bigTrue says:

      And you can right now, if you’re willing to A) go without live sports and B) don’t have anything way out of the ordinary as your viewing pleasure.

      U-Verse 12mg down speed is 45 dollars a month.
      uTorrent is free
      PeerBlocker is free so you don’t have any worry about those pesky law types
      Acer Revo with linux = 350 dollars or 450 if you need Win 7 for Netflix Streaming. It has 6 USB slots, an eSata slot and HDMI out
      GOM Player is free (this is a very nice feature-rich media player that includes mkv support)
      search lifehacker for a very easy setup as a media center, including a program that will auto grab torrents as soon as they are available for current series.

      presto. Instant Gratification, all for 45 bucks a month and a few hundred for a silent, tiny computer including wireless keyboard and mouse. Add an external drive or a network file server and you’re good to go. Since having internet + cable runs anywhere from 100-150 a month depending on what package, you pay for the acer revo in 4-8 months, about.

      Yes, technically this is illegal, but you can either fight the torrential (hah!) abuse by the media companies, or you can use the tools provided to fix the problem and make everything happy with only about a day delay on new shows. I choose the proactive approach.

  3. nybiker says:

    Well, I said this in another post, I nit pick on misuse of its/it’s, so I feel I have to bring this out.

    “For it’s part,” -> “For its part,”

    A question I have is: Why does AT&T need to use Scripps videos? Isn’t AT&T the carrier here and not another content provider? Does Cablevision use Fox videos in the same fashion that AT&T wants to use Scripps? And if so, how much do they pay for the privilege?

    • davidc says:

      They want to stream the content to AT&T connected devices I believe. iPhone, iPad, etc, etc … and I would guess they want to do it for free.

      It really has nothing to do with *cable* itself, it has to do with some sort of unlimited rights to use the shows anywhere they want.

  4. wrbwrx says:

    wasnt there something about deregulation being good for consumers and providing more choices? and users choosing ala carte programming would be bad for consumers? looks like consumers are about to lose again. (not that they are losing much in those channels delete).

  5. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    OMG NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooo.

    What the hell?

    This has got to friggin stop.

    Please excuse me while I go huddle in the corner and chant “Bring back Alton, bring back Alton” over and over again.

    • nbs2 says:

      Of course, Scripps has been at the forefront of delivering content in new and innovative ways. It’s hard to feel any pity for them.

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        As well you shouldn’t. You should feel pitty for me because I shall be Alton-less until they resolve this issue, which hopefully they will before the new episode comes out on Thursday.

        Well, not totally Alton-less but substantially Alton reduced.

        • nbs2 says:

          Fair enough. Although, that’s why I’ve been slowly amassing my Alton library. Any time I feel Alton depleted, I pop in Three Chips for Sister Marsha, Eat this Rock, or (my favorite) Wondrous Waffles.

          • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

            Oohh….. *sigh*.. those were all good ones.. and yes, I love the Waffle episode as well. THE WAFFLER!

            I had a pretty good library going on my old DVR but I lost it when I switched to HD DVR with Comcast, then built it up a little again and lost it again when I switched to Uverse. : /

            I really should just start buying his DVD collections so I will always have plenty of Alton. Which, come to think of it, is probably Scripps’ goal, anyway.

        • bigTrue says:

          get uTorrent
          get Peerblocker
          get GOM player
          download episode the next day after it airs
          Don’t feel back since the corps involved are having a penis fight and screwing you over .

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So customers will get a reduced cost to service now, right? Right?

    • thesalad says:

      Suuure.. As soon as that nigerian prince sneds you that 1.8 million as a commission for helping move his dead fathers funds out of the country.

      • tooluser says:

        Dish Network recently made a few channels free to all (for a limited time) in recompense for their naughtiness with ESPN and Fox.

  7. Sunflower1970 says:

    Just told my friend at work. They are highly upset since they watch those channels quite regularly.

  8. upsidedown09 says:

    You’ve got to be kidding. Most of those channels are the reason why I have cable.

    • Bativac says:

      Me, too – in fact, thinking about it, Scripps should just intitute a subscription service. That would take care of 90% of my teevee watching and I’d never have to deal with Comcast.

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        I was just thinking the same thing, about 90% of what I watch is Scripps channels.

        If they don’t resolve this soon, I see no reason to keep paying for the TV portion of my U-verse bill. I do have a Roku player and a media PC so most everything else is totally doable without paying for TV service.

        As long as they don’t start capping/throttling web video like they’ve been threatening to, that is.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      I’m Jonesing… bad… must… have… HH…

  9. ssm316 says:

    Great…..

  10. Kevin411 says:

    Ha! I’m moving to a new city and was debating between U-verse and just having AppleTV, Netflix OD, etc. I guess they just made my mind up for me. Thank you Consumerist!

  11. Audiyoda28 says:

    Honestly this one comes down to Scripps backing out of their verbal agreement. Their sticking point is Uverse’s IPTV technology and setting up their Multiview channels. Scripps doesn’t want their properties to be used within the Uverse multiview channel because there’s a possibility it could be lumped next to a non-Scripps property.

    • upsidedown09 says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts. Those are core channels on cable and I’m sure U-Verse customers are going to complain. I know I am. I just wonder if it’ll be enough for them come to terms….

      • Audiyoda28 says:

        Did a bit more research – it seems AT&T also wants to distribute Scripps channels via other media (to Uverse subscribers only) like the internet, cellphones, and the like. So I can see Scripps POV in backing away from all of this.

        Still, I see both sides at fault.

    • Audiyoda28 says:

      I forgot to mention that AT&T certainly has fault here as well – they could have extended their existing contract to the end of 2010 to continue negotiations. FAIL on both sides.

  12. daave says:

    LOL the wife and I talked yesterday about cancelling UVERSE to go back to Boxee/Hulu/Netflix to save some money and to lower our habit of watching too much TV at night after work.

    Considering we mostly watch Food network, hgtv, DIY… im cancelling NOW! See ya!

  13. Gandalf the Grey says:

    Time to cancel Uverse. I was looking for ways to cut costs anyway, and it looks like it just became time to finally cut cable altogether.

  14. AstroPig7 says:

    This might drive us away from U-verse and toward a streaming solution. The channels owned by Discovery Communications are the only ones keeping me around.

  15. tackhouse1 says:

    I’m really tired of these content producers. they say “Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our content to our viewers in new and innovative ways.” It has nothing to do with Scripps being able to deliver content to viewers, and everything to do with them wanting more money.

  16. dognose says:

    Good. I don’t care about those channels.

    I should only have to pay for the channels I want.

    Maybe they’d have some free channels, but any channel I’m paying for, I should know the price. $10 for foxnews, no thanks!

  17. GearheadGeek says:

    HGTV and Food Network are collectively about half the reason I wouldn’t be satisfied with free OTA television. It’s dangerous for U-Verse, since that’s one of the few video services that is NOT generally a local monopoly, they brought in U-Verse to lots of markets with existing cable companies.

    It’s AT&T’s own stupid fault that I’m not a U-verse subscriber… when Charter raised my rates, I looked into getting a “new customer” promo from U-Verse. They’ll apparently provide service to every house AROUND mine, including the other 3 houses served off the same pole that has the AT&T line that runs to my house, but they claim they can’t serve my house and I didn’t manage to find someone with enough functioning brain cells to understand that it’s an issue with their database, not my location. So, I twisted Charter’s arm over the price and got a fair deal from them instead.

    From what my neighbors tell me, I’m MUCH happier with Charter than they are with U-Verse, so I guess I dodged a bullet.

  18. Floppywesl says:

    It’s almost like they want people to DL these shows off the net

  19. flyairdave says:

    I’m so sick of AT&T Uverse. Now they are telling Uverse customers to go to att.net/fighting4you for info on the missing channels. If AT&T was fighting for its customers, their service would not suck and their prices would not be so high. I spoke to an Uverse minon and he told me “I understand your concern.” LMAO

  20. ShruggingGalt says:

    I’ll get over it.

  21. Me - now with more humidity says:

    WTF!?

  22. PLATTWORX says:

    This is EXACTLY how an industry ends up regulated when they can’t behave. These “drop the stations, hurt the customer” issues keep happening over and over. Soon, they are going to be screaming and yelling when a new law forbids then from dropping channels without compensating customers. Either side.

    Oh well, the asked for it.

  23. Saltillopunk says:

    I just found this out about 5 minutes ago. Dang it!!!!! Those are the networks I watch fairly regularly. Although they have been rerunning the heck out of most shows lately. So maybe the break isn’t so bad.

  24. kagekiri says:

    Food Network is pretty much the only channel my family has missed since leaving AT&T U-verse. I guess now there’s absolutely no reason to go back.

  25. Benobi says:

    No fears, my friends, Hulu now has many Food Network shows… Including Good Eats.

  26. hakkoz says:

    Wow, so glad that Fios has its act together. I don’t know what I’d do without HGTV or DIY. Well, maybe I’d stop living vicariously through other people completing their projects and actually finish my own…

  27. gman863 says:

    Although I’m usually not a fan of government regulation, it’s time for the FCC and/or FTC to weigh in on the issue of channel drop bitch-slapping contests and set some rules. For example:

    * Force cable and satellite companies to offer an “a la carte” option: A base service fee plus a specific amount to subscribe (or not subscribe to) each channel. A magazine subscription to Time doesn’t force you to also subscribe to and pay for Newsweek, US News, Good Housekeeping, etc. Why should TV be any different?

    * Require subscribers get a bill credit equal to the cable/satellite provider’s actual monthly cost for any channel dropped from a package. For example, if AT&T’s combined monthly cost per U-Verse subscriber to these channels was $2/month at the time they were dropped, AT&T would be required to discount the subscriber’s bill by $2.00 for the remainder of the subscriber’s contract or 12 months, whichever is longer. In the event the channel was later reinstated, the discount would be on a pro-rated basis for the time it was unavailable.

    * Require local TV stations to enter binding arbitration with cable/satellite providers. As we speak, KHOU-11 (the CBS affiliate in Houston) is airing ads warning viewers the channel may soon disappear from Comcast and DirecTV unless “an agreement is reached”. FYI, KHOU is owned by Belo, a broadcast chain with TV stations in about 25 major markets; this could affect local Belo stations in other cities. Up until a few years ago, the FCC had a “must carry” rule requiring cable (but not satellite) providers to air all full power local VHF/UHF stations in their basic channel lineup. If the FCC thought it was such a big deal then, they should be enforcing it now.

  28. kethryvis says:

    This is just getting ridiculous! i had Food last night, and now bam. They’ve thwapped a simulcast of Bravo onto that channel with a bar at the bottom about how ATT “is fighting for” us. Because of a pissing match between two companies that don’t really give a shit.

    I may have to start thinking more seriously about if i really want to keep cable if this shit keeps happening.

  29. Destron says:

    It has nothing to do with regulation, and more about competition. There is a reason the FCC chooses to stay out of these disputes. A cable company is a business that offers you services. The networks provide create those services. While I agree that if a cable company drops a content provider they should offer a discount to the customer for the absence of that service, and they should give you a window to get out of your contract if you so choose. If the only reason I had cable was for HGTV and they dropped it 4 months in to my 24 month contract I would be pissed.

    However the FCC can no go to Scripps and tell them your signing a contract no matter the terms because your hurting the customers. And the can’t go to the cable company and tell them your paying whatever the hell you have to so you can get HGTV back on the air. Cable companies are never under any obligation to carry any channel (except they used to be required to carry local channels but I don’t think that stands anymore).

    These pissing matched go on all the time in other industries, you are just not as aware of them. Grocery and Department store chains pull products all the time because they can’t reach an agreement with the supplier, and this is exactly the same thing. You cant get some government agency involved just because your local grocery store could not come to an agreement with a supplier and no longer carry your favorite brand.

    The only reasons these things are becoming public now is that the cable companies KNOW that these are well loved channels, and they are trying to use the public to help leverage their position. They make it look like they are the good guys looking out for you and the provider is the big mean bully that refuses to negotiate. Then the public gets outraged and goes beating down the door of the provider. In reality both parties share the blame.

    If there was more competition in the market it would minimize this. If for example Comcast decided they could not agree with a provider, they would me much more likely to end it post haste if the consumer had one or more two choices in the market that would still carry those networks and hundreds or thousands of people might jump ship based on that channel group.

    • katarzyna says:

      The difference is that I don’t have a contract or early termination fees with grocery and department stores. If Macy’s stops carrying Liz Claiborn, I can get Liz clothing at another store without penalty. When Uverse stops carrying the Food channel, I’d have to pay an early termination fee to stop service, and possibly pay for equipment to go with another provider.

      The problem is that the consumer can’t decide to change the contract without penalty, but the provider can. Yes, I realize that the small print allows the provider to do just that, but the relationship is unfair to begin with.

      • Destron says:

        Your contract is ONLY a contract for your cable provider to provide you with cable service. Nowhere in that contract does it say exactly what channels you will be given, and your contract does not cover the channels you receive when you sign up. Your contact simply states you will get service. Nowhere will you find in your contract that you will receive certain channels for the entire term of your contract. For example – this is quoted from my DirecTV contract:

        Our Programming Changes. Many factors affect the availability, cost and quality of programming and may influence the decision to raise prices and the amount of any increase. These include, among others, programming and other costs, consumer demand, market and shareholder expectations, and changing business conditions. Accordingly, we must reserve the unrestricted right to change, rearrange, add or delete our programming packages, the selections in those packages, our prices, and any other Service we offer, at any time. We will endeavor to notify you of any change that is within our reasonable control and its effective date. In most cases this notice will be about one month in advance. You always have the right to cancel your Service, in whole or in part, if you do not accept the change (see Section 5). If you cancel your Service, a deactivation fee (described in Sections 2 & 5(b)) or other charges may apply. Credits, if any, to your account will be posted as described in Section 5. If you do not cancel, your continued receipt of our Service will constitute acceptance.

        And that is why I said that people should be given a time period to opt out of the contract on such a change. As you can read above, If they stop carrying something i am “free to cancel” but have to pay fees. If I continue to receive the service it constitutes acceptance. Well, no it does not necessarily mean that. It just means the channels didn’t mean enough to me to pay the fees.

        BUT you agree to give up your right to do that when you sign the contract so there you are, and you know they will never change it. It does not count as a change in the contract because it says right there they reserve the right to add, delete, move, or raise the prices.

        That is where competition would be the healthier option. Yes, the may have you by the balls if your under contract but you don’t have to go back when it’s up, and in any viewing area there would be hundreds of people ready to renew or within the time period to renew that they would just jump ship and change providers. If they could foresee that as a problem the would be more likely to work out their differences and keep carrying the channels that matter to their customers.

  30. takingbackamerica says:

    For those unfamiliar (I lived in Cleveland for a while), AT&T U-Verse is equivalent to Verizon FiOS in the Midwest, South and Pacific states. It looked pretty cool, and I would have got it had I stayed.

    Since Scripps owns network affiliates (For example, the ABC affiliates in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit), is U-Verse pulling those too? This is what happened with FOX/MyTV with Cablevision over the smaller FOX-owned networks.

    If so, then the magnitude of this is worse than advertised.

  31. ingramje says:

    Maybe “the people” should contact congress and ask them to intervene. There are two ways of doing so:

    https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

    http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

  32. TonyK says:

    I was wondering where Food network went to. Oh well.

  33. ddrec says:

    ATT U_verse cancelled the Hallmark channel and the Hallmark movie channel about two months ago, also because they couldn’t come to an agreement. It seems they have a vendetta for wholesome and educational programming. Why can’t these TV providers (cable, satellite, etc.) begin negotiations with their providers early enough to avoid this nonsense and p-poor customer service? Is there no one on their staffs over 60 who understand the 7P’s (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance)? Oh well, that’s 2 strikes. Soon they will learn (the hard way- with viewer cancellations) what happens with the third strike. Duh.

  34. padrone says:

    We have U-verse and were one of the first homes in our area (Milwaukee WI) to get installed during their big push in mid-2007. Fortunately we have no contract, so leaving will be easy. However, the down-side is that our only other option is Time/Warner cable, which will cost us approx. $40 more per month for equivilalent programming & internet access. The debate is now A) do we stick with U-verse and hope they come to an agreement to continue HGTV, Food Network et al, or B) bail on them and pay more per month through T/W. Going without is not an option, at least one I’m willing to consider at this point.

  35. pot_roast says:

    From what I’ve read elsewhere.. this means quite a lot: “AT&T U-verse demanded unreasonably broad video rights for emerging media where business models have not even been established..”

    Basically, AT&T wants to allow customers to DVR stuff and stream it to other devices, and the networks are balking at it and demanding more money.

    TV networks are the same ones that are strangling Hulu and are stabbing at iTunes too. Yet they wonder why ratings are dropping….

    in this case, go AT&T.

  36. madeinguam says:

    I just spoke with a U-verse CSR and he said the channels are back up as of yesterday and if they’re not showing on your channel lineup, restart the cable box.

  37. Fred says:

    The only solution is a-la-carte let me pay for the chanels I want.

  38. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    One more reason to cut the cable/satellite ties and go old school.