Given that it’s only been on the airwaves since yesterday, you probably haven’t had a chance to check out Al Jazeera America, and if you’re an AT&T U-Verse customer, you can’t watch the new news channel because the cable company doesn’t carry it. However, Al Jazeera’s owners say AT&T is contractually obligated to carry the station and have filed a lawsuit to prove their point.
Al Jazeera America was created from the ashes of the failing Current TV, which Al Jazeera purchased earlier this year with the intention of turning into a U.S. outpost of its Qatar-based news network. The company believes that the existing agreement between AT&T and Current should still be honored and that AT&T’s decision to drop Current the day before Al Jazeera America launched was a “wrongful termination of an affiliation agreement.”
“AT&T’s decision to unilaterally delete Al Jazeera America presented us with circumstances that were untenable — an affiliate that has willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations,” says a rep for the network.
AT&T sees things differently. “As a result of our inability to come to terms on a new agreement and due to certain breaches of the existing agreement we have decided not to carry Current TV on U-verse,” a rep for the company explained to Bloomberg.
In its marketing push leading up to the Aug. 20 launch of Al Jazeera America, the network had touted that it would be available to U-Verse subscribers. The new channel is available to customers of Comcast, Verizon FiOS, Dish Network, and DirecTV.
However, the loss of U-Verse’s 5 million subscribers is a fraction of the 12 million Time Warner Cable viewers that were lost when TWC chose to pull Current TV from its lineup following that channel’s sale to Al Jazeera.