Univision Agrees to Unblock Channels on AT&T's U-Verse
After a short, intense battle, Univision agreed to temporarily unblock its channels on AT&T's U-Verse TV service just in time for Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate, set to be hosted by the Spanish-language channel.
Univision Unblocks Channels
AT&T released a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing that its subscribers can now access Univision, which has the largest audience of any Spanish-language television network in the world.
"This is the right thing to do for our Spanish-language customers as we continue working toward an agreement with Univision," the telephone giant announced.
The Spanish-language broadcaster pulled its programming from AT&T's U-Verse service at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday after the two firms couldn't agree on contract renewal terms for carriage rates. As a result, U-Verse customers had no access to Univision, Unimás, Galavision and Univision Deportes for the past four days.
Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior EVP of external and legislative affairs, issued a statement on Monday saying the network pulled its channels from U-Verse "despite our offer to extend the carriage agreement temporarily while a new long-term agreement was being worked out." He added that his company carries 78 Spanish-language channels and is willing to pay "fair, market rates for content so U-Verse customers are protected from big increases in their bills."
Univision, however, charged that the telcom's tough negotiating was tantamount to "redlining" the broadcaster's Spanish-speaking audience.
Univision "stooped to despicable allegations in an effort to extort an outrageous price increase - an increase which ultimately will come at the expense of all our customers, including Univision viewers," Cicconi added in another statement.
Univision To Air Debate
The announcement comes hours before Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders square off at a primary debate in Miami hosted by Univision and The Washington Post. The debate will air in Spanish on Univision and in English on CNN, Fusion and via livestream on Apple TV.
"We can confirm that Wednesday's Univision News and The Washington Post's Democratic Primary Debate from Miami will be available to U-verse customers as part of our commitment to inform and empower our community, especially in this crucial election year," Univision spokesperson Monica Talan told Politico.
Univision Decision Is Praised
Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, praised the companies for coming to an agreement ahead of the Democratic debate while a fair carriage deal remains pending.
"There are more that 27.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in the election-nearly half of them are millennials-and we need to be well-informed participants in the political process," said Nogales in a statement sent to Latin Post. "It is of the utmost importance that both parties renew negotiations toward an equitable agreement that respects the needs of customers and the immense value of Spanish-language programming."
Earlier on Tuesday, California Rep. Tony Cárdenas released a statement, pleading with the two companies to reconcile their differences in order to provide Spanish-speaking Americans access to the channel.
"The Latino community has an unprecedented opportunity this year to be a strong and decisive voice in our nation's future. Few things would be more detrimental to this potential than limiting the viewing options for one of the Latino community's most trusted sources of information. It is difficult to overstate the importance of media as a tool to encourage civic engagement and participation, and the importance of a diverse and well-informed public," the statement read.