AT&T has found itself in another carriage spat, this time with the NFL, dropping the league-owned NFL Network and RedZone channel from its U-verse and DirecTV Now services.
“We have a long history of working with our distribution partners to come to fair agreements. That said, in order to come to an agreement there must be a willingness to communicate, to exchange proposals, to sit down and negotiate,” an NFL Networks spokesperson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as it pertains to AT&T, we never heard a word from them until NFL Network and NFL RedZone were pulled from the AT&T U-Verse and DTV Now services.”
NFL Network is still available to subscribers of DirecTV’s regular television service — DTV Now is the company’s streaming package.
AT&T’s decision to drop the channels comes as the league is considering putting an end to DirecTV’s exclusive rights to its Sunday Ticket package, which offers subscribers the ability to watch out-of-market games during the season. Sunday Ticket has been exclusive to DirecTV customers for the past 25 years. Although the current deal between the AT&T-owned company and the NFL runs through the 2023 season, the league has an opt-out after the 2019 season.
“We’ve had a 25-year partnership and we want to continue that partnership, but we also are looking to see how we can change the delivery,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview last month with Bloomberg. “We want it delivered on several different platforms.”
The blackout also comes ahead of next week’s NFL Draft, which will have 77 hours of live coverage of NFL Network. Both ESPN and ABC will also air the draft in its entirety from April 25-27.
In March, AT&T had a contentious carriage negotiation with Viacom that nearly ended up in channels like MTV and Comedy Central getting dropped from DirecTV, but the two companies reached a last-minute deal.