AT&T U-verse and Crown Media’s Hallmark Channels failed to resolve their carriage fee dispute yesterday, so as of 12:01 EDT U-verse both the Hallmark Channel and the Hallmark Movie Channel came off its service.
Said U-verse in a statement, “We are very disappointed that Hallmark has refused to provide AT&T and its customers with a fair deal — one that is no worse than similarly-sized and smaller providers — and refused to adhere to key obligations under our current deal. We offered to extend the current deal while talks continued, and Hallmark rejected that offer. Hallmark has forced us into a position where we no longer have the rights to carry the Hallmark channels as of 12:01 EDT. We don’t want customers to lose their programming, but we believe strongly that our customers should not have to pay more than their fair share for Hallmark’s channels, which is exactly what Hallmark is demanding.”
Said Bill Abbott, president and CEO of the Hallmark channels in a statement, "“I was stunned by the apparent disregard for the facts in AT&T’s recent statement regarding our negotiations. However, if they are really serious, my team and I are ready for truly fair negotiations."
Previously, Abbot had said in a statement, that AT&T U-verse’is "a multi-billion dollar organization bullying one of the nation’s last surviving independent cable networks by insisting on unreasonable rates that would seriously jeopardize our longevity. Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel are two of the few remaining family-friendly networks offered on television and represent less than 1% of AT&T’s total basic programming fees! Although we would have preferred to conduct the negotiations privately, we have been forced to comment since AT&T advised its customers weeks ago that Hallmark Channels may be dropped on August 31, 2010.”
The dispute comes as the flagship Hallmark Channel is planning a major overhall of its daytime lineup in two weeks, as it enters a programming partneship with Martha Stewart and her company.
AT&T said it would replace the Hallmark Channel with "a free preview of the popular family programming from Starz Kids & Family on channel 176 and replace the Hallmark Movie Channel with Turner Classic Movies on channels 794/1794." Most U-verse subscribers already receive TCM.