OAN is seeking other carriers (it has a few remaining), and its targeted cable providers should see this lawsuit for what it is: a reckless last-ditch attempt by a revanchist network desperate to save its business model. It’s a clear warning sign for telecoms to stay far away from OAN.
In writing about the lawsuit, Times of San Diego notes that this lawsuit is clearly about OAN facing “financial ruin.”
The details of the suit underscore that it’s about settling political scores. As Times of San Diego lays out, the lawsuit attacks Kennard, chairman of AT&T’s board, for being a registered Democrat who was appointed to positions by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It also attacks Kennard for serving as a board member of Staple Street, which OAN notes is linked to Dominion Voting Systems. A spokesperson for AT&T told the outlet that “these allegations are completely without merit, particularly as they relate to AT&T and our independent chairman.”
This attack on Kennard comes after an OAN host urged viewers to dig up dirt on him following DirecTV’s announcement. OAN’s owner Robert Herring Sr. also attacked Kennard in an on-air interview following the decision.
In fact, as Reuters notes, this filing reveals that AT&T’s support of OAN goes even deeper than previously disclosed, as an AT&T subsidiary will still be selling ads for OAN through 2024:
The new lawsuit alleges that in addition to helping to create and distribute OAN, AT&T entered into the advertising deal with the network in 2019.
Under that deal, an AT&T subsidiary called Xandr is OAN’s sole advertising vendor and earns a commission on commercials aired by the network, the lawsuit alleges. A pending sale of Xandr to Microsoft will not include the portion of the company that sells commercials for DirecTV or OAN.
After DirecTV drops OAN, said a person familiar with the contract, the AT&T subsidiary will continue to serve as the advertising representative for OAN on other platforms, such as regional cable companies and cable and internet provider Verizon FIOS.
The pact to sell commercials is separate from the deal to air OAN on DirecTV, and does not expire until 2024.
In the lawsuit, Herring said AT&T has earned “generous commissions via selling advertising on AWE and OAN.” The advertising deal called for AT&T to sell both traditional commercials, which every viewer sees, and targeted ads, which are tailored “to the individual viewer based on data known about the viewer.” The court filings don’t say how much revenue AT&T has garnered from the ad deal.
OAN also lashes out at others in the filing, including the NAACP, Greenpeace, John Oliver, and – of course – Media Matters, all for criticizing the network. We’ll put aside, for the moment, concerns about this chilling speech.
Instead, the question at this point is why any other cable provider would want this kind of trouble – because it’s not just this lawsuit. Texas attorney general and man desperate to win his run-off election Ken Paxton joined five other GOP attorneys general in sending a letter demanding that OAN be reinstated.
Like any other media company, OAN has a right to exist. It does not have a right to continued funding through cable subscriber fees. This lawsuit is very good reason to not give the company the big-money handout it transparently wants.