from the good-luck-out-there dept

Back in October, reports emerged indicating that AT&T had not only funded much of the creation of the popular conspiracy and fantasy channel OAN, AT&T executives had actually come up with the original idea. The channel, which routinely traffics in false election fraud, COVID, and other right-wing conspiracy theories, had seen most of its reach come courtesy of a partnership with DirecTV. As of last week, DirecTV executives informed OAN it wouldn’t be having its contract renewed:

“The satellite-TV provider has notified OAN’s owner, Herring Networks Inc., that it plans to stop carrying the company’s two channels when their contract expires. Herring Networks also owns AWE, a lifestyle channel that stands for “A Wealth of Entertainment.”

What changed? After its disastrous $200 billion Time Warner and DirecTV megamerger spree resulted in layoffs, lost customers, and general carnage, AT&T had to not only backtrack from its ambitions to be an online video and ad giant, it had to sell anything that wasn’t nailed down to recoup the massive debt created from the deals. That included spinning off DirecTV into its own, new entity in a partnership with private equity firm TPG Capital. While AT&T still has a 70% stake in the venture, it now has other executives with a vested interest in calling the shots.

I’d wager that while Dallas-based right wing AT&T executives had no problem being associated with the conspiracy theory channel, AT&T’s new partners at TPG likely weren’t keen on the bad press. Especially in the wake of last October’s reporting so closely linking AT&T to a channel that routinely traffics in dangerous gibberish like claims that COVID was created in a North Carolina lab.

As of last year, estimates pegged OAN’s total subscriber count (people who have the channel in their cable lineup) at somewhere around 23 million, far lower than Fox News (78.6 million) or even Newsmax (58.2 million). But estimates of how many people actually watch the channel consistently is notably lower than that:

Without DirecTV’s help, the channel’s reach is curtailed even further. Now the channel is only carried by a small handful of cable TV providers, the biggest being Verizon’s FiOS TV. Granted the channel’s gibberish still gets traction online as part of the far right propaganda ecosystem (which includes both sharing by people who believe what the channel has to say, and outrage retweets from those who don’t) but in terms of traditional distribution the move significantly restricts the propaganda bullhorn’s impact all the same.

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Filed Under: cable tv, carriage, conspiracy theories, oan, pay tv, propaganda
Companies: at&t, directv, herring networks, oan

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