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Al Jazeera America sues AT&T over distribution dispute

August 20, 2013|By Joe Flint
  • Kate O'Brian, president of Al Jazeera America LLC, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.
Kate O'Brian, president of Al Jazeera America LLC, speaks during… (Scott Eells / Bloomberg )

Al Jazeera America has been on less than one day and it already has made an enemy.

The new cable news channel, which launched Tuesday afternoon, filed a lawsuit against AT&T for not carrying the network on its U-verse pay-TV system.

Al Jazeera America had promoted that AT&T U-verse would be one of the distributors carrying the network.

However, when the channel flipped the switch, AT&T dropped it.

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In a statement, Al Jazeera accused AT&T of breach of contract and said it had no choice but to file a suit against the company to "compel AT&T to do the right thing." The suit was filed in Delaware Chancery Court.

An AT&T spokesman said the company had not seen the suit but added that U-verse was unable to come to terms on a distribution deal with Al Jazeera, which is why it decided not to carry the channel.

Although U-verse has about 5 million subscribers, not all were expected to get Al Jazeera America. TheĀ  previous owner -- Current TV -- was on a specialty tier that did not reach all U-verse subscribers and it was that deal that Al Jazeera America inherited when it acquired Current TV.

AT&T also accused Al Jazeera of breaching the Current TV agreement.

Al Jazeera launched in just under 50 million homes around the nation. The biggest holdout to carrying the channel is Time Warner Cable, which has over 12 million subscribers.

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Al Jazeera America faces more than the usual new kid challenges

Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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