"Contract disputes" blamed for last-minute drop
Less than an hour before its 3 p.m. ET Tuesday launch comes word that Al Jazeera America has been dropped by AT&T U-Verse as of 11:59 p.m. ET Monday, the company told TheWrap.
"We dropped the Current TV channel, and will not carry Al Jazeera America, on U-Verse due to contract disputes," AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told TheWrap. "We could not reach an agreement with the owner that we believed provided value for our customers and our business."
Al Jazeera America was not immediately available for comment.
Also read: 5 Reasons Why Al Jazeera America Could Fail
As of July 2013, U-Verse boasted over 5 million TV customers, though not all of them are subscribers to the package that contains Al Jazeera America. AT&T would not specify how many are subscribers to that package.
Al Jazeera America is the first cable news channel to launch since Fox News back in 1996.
The network has plenty of cash, and is funded by the oil-rich royal family of Qatar. It has hired a staff of 850, create 12 bureaus in the United States. It has 70 more all over the world through Al Jazeera's network.
Al Jazeera America is taking over Current's airwaves, which didn't reach as many homes as cable stalwarts CNN, MSNBC and Fox News; that number dropped lower, when Time Warner Cable dropped the channel from its lineup. At launch, it was expected to be in 48 million homes, compared to about 100 million for its competitors.
New York Times reporter Brian Stelter broke the AT&T U-Verse news on Twitter.