In case you haven’t already heard, Univision and AT&T are in a serious stand off! As of March 4, 2016, nearly 6 million people have found out that they can no longer access Univision stations on AT&T’s U-verse platform. The reason? AT&T and Univision can’t seem to agree on their rate negotiations.
Univision is highly influential and the most-watched Spanish-language channel in the U.S. AT&T is a leading communications company with a strong history in diversity. The blackout affects Univision and UniMas broadcast stations, Galavision, sports cable network Univision Deportes and other Spanish-language networks owned by Univision Communications Inc. While AT&T accuses Univision of stooping “to despicable allegations in an effort to extort an outrageous price increase”, Univision wants to be treated the same way as its English language counterparts like ABC. Univision voiced that while AT&T is stating that Univision is asking for an “outrageous fee increase” they don’t know what they are actually willing to pay vis a vis market and existing rates. Has AT&T paid more for English language broadcasting content in recent distribution deals than it has for its Spanish language counterpart? Univision is demanding to be paid equally to their English language counterparts especially when they have often ranked higher than them. AT&T is committed to keeping cost increases down as much as possible. As an entrepreneur, I can understand both sides but why is it that they are keeping costs down with Spanish-language media but not English-language broadcasters? Unfortunately as things stand, no one wins.
I don’t like these public exchanges – mas respeto señores – but I also don’t like the perception that Spanish language or multicultural content is valued less. Add to that the fact that unlike the average american household, some hispanic households do not have the luxury of “streaming it live” in their ipad or smartphone, which is at the moment the only way for U-verse customers to still get Univision programming. Hundreds of thousands of families rely on Univision programming to watch their favorite family shows after a long day’s work and as their sole access to this year’s electoral campaign. Minority communities are already limited in their access to everyday resources now our Hispanic families have to do without something as simple as their daily news? Imagínense – AT&T actually encouraged Univision viewers to go to the competition to view their programming:
— Come on now, that’s a low blow! Señores, not all Spanish language channels are the same!
I am glad both Univision and AT&T have agreed to air the Democratic debate on March 9th. Countless of Hispanic voters are seeking information for this election and this is critical. This is progress but not enough, both Univision and AT&T need to find a solution. Me pregunto – if the most popular Spanish-language network cannot get fair treatment with one of the largest communications companies, what does that mean for the future of emerging and independent minority creators? I do have hope because if there is one company that I expect to do the right thing when it comes to fair treatment, it is AT&T.
Regardless of which side you stand on – AT&T or Univision – one thing is clear…we need to continue to expand access to Spanish language and minority content and make sure our community is treated fairly. We are not worth any less. We also need both Univision and AT&T to act FAST. This is not just about two companies not agreeing on a business deal but on the fundamental of access, programming and fairness for our community.