OAN sues DirecTV over being dropped from its channel lineup

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OAN has filed a lawsuit against DirecTV, AT&T and AT&T’s chairman for dropping its ultra conservative channel.

In January 2022, DirecTV announced it would no longer carry OAN after its current contract expires in April 2022.

The move will hit OAN hard, as DirecTV was the only major national cable or satellite provider to carry the network.

AT&T and DirecTV had been facing increasing pressure after the channel’s baseless claims of election fraud that have resulted in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by a voting technology company. It was also revealed that AT&T helped fund OAN.

The legal argument OAN is presenting appears to be mostly rooted in what it believes is its right to reach an audience with its programming and messaging.

OAN alleges that DirecTV is caving under political pressure and is participating in what it calls a “larger, coordinated, extremely well-financed political scheme to take down (OAN CEO Robert) Herring and unlawfully destroy its ability to operate in the media business.”

It also claims that OAN’s programming is “designed to have broad appeal with special interest to viewers interested in independent and conservative political thought.”

Losing the DirecTV deal could significantly impact OAN’s ability to reach viewers with its programming, thus potentially limiting its ability to sell ad time and collect carriage fees from DirecTV that it, in turn, uses to funder operations and ultimately become a viable business.

As a business, DirecTV likely has broad range to make decisions about how it operates, including selecting which non-over the air channels to carry based on a variety of factors, including customer demand, usage and the cost it pays OAN to carry the channel.

The FCC does regulate satellite television providers to some degree, though most of these rules are related to consumers’ rights to receive local, over the air stations via their satellite providers and not determining what other channels a provider carries.

On March 10, 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote to DirecTV asking the company to reconsider its contract.

In that statement, he claims there is “an alarming rate of conservative voices being squashed throughout the country.”

“OAN is simply representing a different perspective from the media’s liberal ideology,” Paxton wrote.

Fox’s conservative cable network, though considered tamer than OAN in many regards, has managed to attract more viewers than “big three” networks ABC and NBC, according to a recent investor call to be the second most watched channel in all of television behind only CBS.

It’s also the most watched network of any cable channel — no matter what the category. During the call, it also noted that the channel is attracting more independents and democrats.