AMC Networks Accuses AT&T of Abusing Market Power

AMC Networks has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing AT&T of abusing its market power in order to unfairly advantage its own networks, HBO and TNT.

Though much of the complaint is redacted, AMC appears to be complaining that AT&T is seeking to limit AMC’s ability to make its content available on digital platforms, such as Hulu and Amazon Prime. AMC also complains about AT&T’s proposed pricing, arguing that the terms would cut into AMC’s ability to compete for high-quality programming on an even playing field with HBO and TNT.

The complaint alleges AT&T is going back on its promise, expressed during the AT&T-Time Warner antitrust trial, that it would not use its clout as a vertically integrated media company to disadvantage its competitors. AMC alleges that AT&T is leveraging its “disproportionate market power” to extract “onerous and stifling” terms, in clear violation of that pledge.

According to the complaint, which was filed on Wednesday, AT&T subscribers account for about a quarter of AMC’s households. AMC is asking for a standstill order, which would require AT&T to continue to carry AMC’s networks at current rates and terms while its complaint is adjudicated.

“We have had a long and successful relationship with AT&T and we hope to continue our strong partnership well into the future,” AMC said in a statement. “We are only asking AT&T to treat our networks fairly and not competitively disadvantage our programming and business interests as compared to the manner in which they treat their own networks like HBO and TNT.”

An AT&T spokesperson denied the allegations, and argued that its proposed carriage terms are based in part on declining demand for AMC’s shows.

“AMC Networks’ complaint is without merit,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We treat all programmers fairly and will continue to work with AMC Networks to provide its content at a price that is reasonable to our customers. The cost to provide AMC Networks’ programming to our customers should reflect that AMC Networks’ shows have been declining in popularity as compared to their peers for several years.“

The blacked-out portions of the complaint appear to chronicle the back-and-forth as the two sides sought to negotiate a carriage deal. In July, AMC notified AT&T that it would file a carriage complaint.

“It makes no business sense for AT&T to hinder the development of networks on which it depends to attract and retain subscribers, unless AT&T’s actions are designed and intended to give its affiliated networks a substantial competitive edge in the marketplace,” the complaint states. “AT&T is heavily funding its own networks… AT&T is allowing its own networks to have the widest possible distribution. This disparate treatment will benefit HBO and TNT tremendously.”

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