Herring Networks lawsuit claims AT&T broke promise to carry its channels on DirecTV

Herring Networks lawsuit claims AT&T broke promise to carry its channels on DirecTV
San Diego's Herring Networks claimsthat AT&T reneged on an agreement to carry two of Herring's channels on DirecTV after Herring supported AT&T's takeover of the satellite TV provider. (Seth Perlman / Associated Press; Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Small TV programmer Herring Networks is suing AT&T, alleging the telecommunications company broke its agreement to carry two of Herring’s channels on DirecTV in return for the broadcaster’s support of the AT&T-DirectTV merger.

Herring's lawsuit, which seeks at least $100 million, was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. AT&T on Friday said the suit had no merit.

The San Diego broadcaster, which has the channels One America News Network and A Wealth of Entertainment, lent support for AT&T's $49-billion merger last year with DirecTV after it had entered into an agreement for carriage on AT&T's smaller U-verse TV system. At the time, Herring alleges that AT&T officials had promised that U-verse "would continue to expand and grow."

But AT&T has focused more of its energy on DirecTV. The suit contends that AT&T promised to put Herring's channels on DirecTV in return for Herring's support of AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV, which made AT&T the nation's largest pay TV operator.

However, after the merger was complete, Herring contends, AT&T reneged on its agreement and its channels aren't on DirecTV.

"AT&T's statements were deceptive," Herring alleges in the 31-page complaint. "Instead of expanding U-verse, AT&T planned to contract it. AT&T also hid its plan from regulators during the acquisition approval process. It was not until after governmental agencies approved the DirecTV transaction that AT&T came clean about its plan to wind down U-Verse in favor of the DirecTV platform."

A Herring representative told the Los Angeles Times that AT&T should carry the two channels, which combined cost 12 cents a month per subscriber home in carriage fees. The company contends that's a small amount.

"The lawsuit is baseless," AT&T said in a statement."We have offered to carry both channels on DirecTV at reasonable, market-based terms. This lawsuit is simply a ploy by Herring to negotiate a slanted deal."

Herring is represented by Skip Miller of Miller Barondess.

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