Tag Archives: Arts / Culture / Entertainment

Exclusive: iPhone app makers questioned in U.S. antitrust probe of Apple – sources

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has reached out to app developers as part of its investigation into Apple Inc (AAPL.O), one of the four big tech companies being probed for alleged anti-competitive behavior, according one of the developers and another person familiar with the investigation.

FILE PHOTO: An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The chief executive of developer Mobicip, Suren Ramasubbu, told Reuters he was interviewed in November by a U.S. investigator who asked about the company’s interactions with Apple. The app, which has nearly a million users worldwide, allows parents to control what their children see on their iPhones.

Ramasubbu said the Mobicip app was temporarily removed from the iPhone app store last year for a failure to meet requirements imposed by Apple.

A source familiar with the Justice Department’s investigation said a handful of app developers had been contacted in what is the first indication of what officials are pursuing involving Apple since the investigation was revealed by Reuters in June.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Apple’s Silicon Valley neighbors for other reasons, calling for closer scrutiny of social media companies and Google and accusing them of suppressing conservative voices online, without presenting any evidence.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in December that he hoped to have the Justice Department investigations into the big tech platforms – Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Apple – wrapped up this year.

Apple declined comment, but pointed to a statement on its website that says its app store was designed to hold apps “to a high standard for privacy, security and content.”

“Since 2016, we have removed over 1.4 million apps from the App Store because they have not been updated or don’t work on our most current operating systems,” the site says.

Apple’s ability to do just that has been a point of contention in the courtroom. The company was accused in lawsuits last year of abusing its clout in the app market. In one case, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead last May to an antitrust lawsuit that accused Apple of forcing consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications.

SCREEN TIME CONTROL

Apple introduced its Screen Time app, which includes parental controls, in June 2018. At the start of 2019, Ramasubbu told Reuters, his company was contacted by Apple and warned that Mobicip’s app violated the iPhone-maker’s rules relating to technical elements that had previously been acceptable.

The app was removed from the app store for about six months, during which time it was updated to be compliant with Apple rules, Ramasubbu said. It was reinstated in October 2019, but he estimates his company’s business has shrunk by half.

Six executives of parental control app companies interviewed by Reuters said they had a comfortable relationship with Apple until mid-2018. That is when Apple introduced its own, similar software giving parents oversight of their children’s phone screen time and searches.

Apple has said that it had been concerned about parental control apps using technology which gave developers access to sensitive data, and that they declined to approve apps that used the technology if they did not also commit to not sharing data on children.

As the arbiter of who is allowed to sell in the app store, Apple says it has the power to ensure that only the highest quality apps are sold there.

But some developers say it also allows Apple to push out apps that compete with its own products, thus strengthening its profits at a time with its device sales have stagnated and it is seeking new sources of revenue.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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EA’s tepid forecast overshadows quarterly beat, shares slip

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(Reuters) – Electronic Arts Inc forecast fourth-quarter adjusted revenue below analysts’ estimates, weighed down by the delayed launch of its basketball title “NBA Live”, while its “Apex Legends” battles “Fortnite” and “PUBG” to attract young gamers.

FILE PHOTO: The Electronic Arts Inc., logo is displayed on a screen during a PlayStation 4 Pro launch event in New York City, U.S., September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Shares of the Redwood, California-based company fell about 2% after the bell on Thursday.

EA is working with a partner in China to bring its battle-royale title “Apex Legends” to PC and mobile in the country, Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen told Reuters.

Earlier in 2019, EA revealed plans to launch the title, which had attracted 70 million players as of October, in China and also on mobile.

“The biggest unknown is how long does it take to get approval in China,” Jorgensen added.

China, which stopped approving the monetization of new video game titles in March 2018, resumed processing applications in December that year, with a huge backlog of games awaiting approval.

The videogame publisher behind franchises like “FIFA” and “Battlefield” said it expects current-quarter adjusted revenue to be about $1.15 billion, below analysts’ expectations of $1.20 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The tepid forecast comes at a time when the dominance of console-based game franchises, including rivals Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, is being threatened by mobile-based, free-to-play games with engaging formats.

EA has pushed back the release of “NBA Live” last quarter to coincide with the launch of new gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony at the end of 2020.

The strong launch of “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” during the crucial holiday season helped the company beat third-quarter adjusted revenue estimates.

The title, released in November, climbed its way to become the second best-selling game of December, according to data from research firm NPD.

Revenue from live services, the largest chunk of its sales, rose 41% to $677 million. The company expects growth for this unit to accelerate in fiscal 2022, led by a new Battlefield title.

EA raised its full-year adjusted revenue forecast to $5.15 billion from $5.13 billion, but was below analysts’ expectations of $5.21 billion.

On an adjusted basis, the company’s revenue jumped 22.9% to $1.98 billion, beating the analysts’ expectation of $1.97 billion.

Net income for the third quarter ended Dec. 31 rose to $346 million, or $1.18 per share, from $262 million, 86 cents per share, a year earlier.

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Uttaresh.V

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Apple to reveal streaming service prices while iPhones on ‘holding pattern’ until 5G

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(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is set on Tuesday to announce pricing for its forthcoming streaming TV service as well as updates to its iPhone lineup, as the tech giant reaches a turning point where it focuses as much on services as its hardware and software.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstration of the newly released Apple products is seen following the product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The annual upgrade to the iPhone is expected to include new camera features but few big changes, with Apple in a “holding pattern” until it rolls out 5G phones with faster mobile data speeds next year, analysts said. Instead, services like the television content featuring the likes of Oprah Winfrey that will compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) could take center stage.

While the iPhone still makes up more than half of Apple’s sales, Tuesday’s event may nudge it off center stage after a decade in the limelight.

Apple long boasted about its competitive advantage over rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), which makes handsets, or Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), which provides the Android operating system for most of the world’s phones. Apple touted controlling both the hardware and software, resulting in polished products that commanded premium prices and captured most of the smart phone industry’s profits.

But at the fall event at 10 a.m. PT (1700 GMT) in the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, typically Apple’s splashiest and dedicated to its flagship devices, Apple is cementing a third element to its focus: hardware, software and services.

The new strategy, which Apple hinted at an event in March where it gave some details about the streaming TV service, comes as iPhone sales have declined year-over-year for the past two fiscal quarters and investors are fixed on the growth potential for services.

Questions about how Apple will price its television service, and whether it will bundle it with its streaming music products, will weigh on the minds of Wall Street and analysts just as much as whether the Apple TV hardware box gets an upgrade or how many cameras the iPhone has. Apple has not yet given a specific launch date or price.

“This is the first time we’ll get to see Apple’s strategy with all three parts of the business,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

With streaming content, Apple is entering a crowded field. Since Apple’s initial television event in March, rivals like Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) have since announced a $6.99 per month service that will contain that firm’s iconic children’s content.

With no historic library of television content of its own, Apple will sell its own service – Apple TV+ – even as it already serves as a reseller of other channels like HBO and, analysts believe, takes a cut of sales. Bajarin said Apple’s challenge is to persuade consumers that its family of devices, from its set-top box to phones, are the best one-stop place to watch shows, despite the fact that Netflix has yet to come on board with the integrated viewing system. (Netflix remains available as a standalone app on Apple devices, and its shows appear in search results in the Apple TV app.)

“Netflix is sort of gaping void” in the Apple TV app “but they’ve got Amazon and all the channels on board,” Bajarin said. “The vast majority of content providers are playing nice with Apple TV.”

Apple is also likely to unveil updates to the iPhone and Apple Watch. Analysts expect the iPhone to feature better cameras, and perhaps new chips to help handle the work of sensors on the device, but few new blockbuster features. Those are not expected until next year, when Apple is expected to have a 5G device capable to taking advantage of faster mobile data networks.

“I believe we are in an incremental holding pattern until 5G. Customers with iPhone X and beyond likely won’t have a reason to upgrade,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

In terms of pricing, most analyst expect prices to remain unchanged from the last year’s models, between $749 and $1,099 depending on size and features. Apple makes much of its profits on selling memory upgrades to devices with larger storage capacity, and Moorhead said falling memory chip prices could help Apple absorb the cost of tariffs on Chinese-made goods, which are expected to hit mobile phones starting Dec. 15.

“Thankfully storage and memory prices have declined so instead of taking more profit, I see Apple eating the cost and not raising prices,” Moorhead said. “I can also see Apple leaning heavily on its supply chain to eat some of the cost.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Apple to reveal streaming service prices while iPhones on ‘holding pattern’ until 5G

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(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is set on Tuesday to announce pricing for its forthcoming streaming TV service as well as updates to its iPhone lineup, as the tech giant reaches a turning point where it focuses as much on services as its hardware and software.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstration of the newly released Apple products is seen following the product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The annual upgrade to the iPhone is expected to include new camera features but few big changes, with Apple in a “holding pattern” until it rolls out 5G phones with faster mobile data speeds next year, analysts said. Instead, services like the television content featuring the likes of Oprah Winfrey that will compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) could take center stage.

While the iPhone still makes up more than half of Apple’s sales, Tuesday’s event may nudge it off center stage after a decade in the limelight.

Apple long boasted about its competitive advantage over rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), which makes handsets, or Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), which provides the Android operating system for most of the world’s phones. Apple touted controlling both the hardware and software, resulting in polished products that commanded premium prices and captured most of the smart phone industry’s profits.

But at the fall event at 10 a.m. PT (1700 GMT) in the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, typically Apple’s splashiest and dedicated to its flagship devices, Apple is cementing a third element to its focus: hardware, software and services.

The new strategy, which Apple hinted at an event in March where it gave some details about the streaming TV service, comes as iPhone sales have declined year-over-year for the past two fiscal quarters and investors are fixed on the growth potential for services.

Questions about how Apple will price its television service, and whether it will bundle it with its streaming music products, will weigh on the minds of Wall Street and analysts just as much as whether the Apple TV hardware box gets an upgrade or how many cameras the iPhone has. Apple has not yet given a specific launch date or price.

“This is the first time we’ll get to see Apple’s strategy with all three parts of the business,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

With streaming content, Apple is entering a crowded field. Since Apple’s initial television event in March, rivals like Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) have since announced a $6.99 per month service that will contain that firm’s iconic children’s content.

With no historic library of television content of its own, Apple will sell its own service – Apple TV+ – even as it already serves as a reseller of other channels like HBO and, analysts believe, takes a cut of sales. Bajarin said Apple’s challenge is to persuade consumers that its family of devices, from its set-top box to phones, are the best one-stop place to watch shows, despite the fact that Netflix has yet to come on board with the integrated viewing system. (Netflix remains available as a standalone app on Apple devices, and its shows appear in search results in the Apple TV app.)

“Netflix is sort of gaping void” in the Apple TV app “but they’ve got Amazon and all the channels on board,” Bajarin said. “The vast majority of content providers are playing nice with Apple TV.”

Apple is also likely to unveil updates to the iPhone and Apple Watch. Analysts expect the iPhone to feature better cameras, and perhaps new chips to help handle the work of sensors on the device, but few new blockbuster features. Those are not expected until next year, when Apple is expected to have a 5G device capable to taking advantage of faster mobile data networks.

“I believe we are in an incremental holding pattern until 5G. Customers with iPhone X and beyond likely won’t have a reason to upgrade,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

In terms of pricing, most analyst expect prices to remain unchanged from the last year’s models, between $749 and $1,099 depending on size and features. Apple makes much of its profits on selling memory upgrades to devices with larger storage capacity, and Moorhead said falling memory chip prices could help Apple absorb the cost of tariffs on Chinese-made goods, which are expected to hit mobile phones starting Dec. 15.

“Thankfully storage and memory prices have declined so instead of taking more profit, I see Apple eating the cost and not raising prices,” Moorhead said. “I can also see Apple leaning heavily on its supply chain to eat some of the cost.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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U.S. states launch antitrust probe of Google, advertising in focus

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorneys general from 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico formally opened an antitrust probe on Monday into Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), in a sign of growing government scrutiny of U.S. technology giants.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the probe, said it will focus on Google’s “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers.”

California and Alabama declined to be part of the probe.

Participating states on Monday asked Google to provide documents on its advertising business, Paxton said at the announcement in Washington. Several attorneys general present described the investigation as “preliminary” and said they expected it would expand to cover other issues, including data privacy.

A separate group of eight state attorneys general, led by New York, joined by the District of Columbia, announced on Friday it was investigating Facebook Inc (FB.O). On Monday, attorneys general declined to say if they planned to expand scrutiny to other large tech firms.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called Google’s search engine a “juggernaut” and argued that a free search sometimes came at the cost of the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies.

“When a company becomes a verb, it may seem as though the states are David taking on Goliath but I am proud to stand tall with my fellow attorneys general,” Rutledge said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the probe was “for the benefit of the tech ecosystem to help level the playing field.”

A spokesman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state was committed to fighting anticompetitive behavior but declined to comment further “to protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations.”

ONCE PRAISED

Tech giants that were once praised as engines of economic growth have increasingly come under fire for allegedly misusing their clout and for lapses such as privacy breaches.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also accused social media firms and Google of suppressing conservative voices online, but has not presented any evidence for his views.

Specifically, Google faces accusations that its web search leads consumers to its products to the detriment of rivals’. There have also been complaints of potentially anti-competitive behavior in how it runs the advertising side of its business.

In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission ended an investigation into Google declaring it did not manipulate its search results to hurt rivals. At the same time, the FTC said Google agreed to end the practice of “scraping”, or misappropriating competitors’ content such as user-generated reviews of restaurants.

Senator Josh Hawley, who as Missouri attorney general opened a probe into Google in 2017, lauded Monday’s announcement as “a very big day for the folks who care about antitrust enforcement.”

Amy Ray, an antitrust lawyer at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, said that the states had a big task ahead of them.

“Any enforcer or litigant will need to navigate U.S. monopolization law as it stands, which has rarely been done successfully since the Microsoft antitrust case,” she said.

The world’s largest social media platform Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp and has more than 1.5 billion daily users, has been criticized for allowing misleading posts and “fake news” to be distributed on its service.

One criticism of Facebook is that it has been slow to clamp down on hate speech. The company recently paid a $5 billion settlement for sharing 87 million users’ data with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, whose clients included Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy, said last week that the company would cooperate with state attorneys general.

On the federal level, the Justice Department and FTC are also probing Facebook, Google, Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) for potential violations of antitrust law.

Alphabet said on Friday the Department of Justice in late August requested information and documents related to prior antitrust probes of the company. It said it was cooperating with federal regulators and with the expected probe from the states.

It had no further comment on Monday, when its shares were down 0.6 percent in late trading.

Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, has been accused of using unfair tactics with third-party sellers, who must pay for advertising on Amazon to compete against its own first-party and private label sales.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks to Reuters after a news conference to announce an antitrust probe into big tech companies that focuses on Alphabet’s Google, outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Pietsch

Apple has come under fire from app developers over practices like making only iPhone apps available through its official App Store. The music-streaming app Spotify (SPOT.N) has alleged that App Store policies make it difficult to compete against Apple Music for paid subscribers.

State attorneys general have fewer resources than federal agencies but have been known to team up to take on giant firms.

Most recently, 43 states and Puerto Rico sued Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.N) and 19 other drugmakers in May, accusing them of scheming to inflate prices and reduce competition for more than 100 generic drugs.

Reporting by Diane Bartz, David Shepardson and Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Sonya Hepinstall

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Huawei unveils new OS to be used in smartphones, different units

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FILE PHOTO: A Huawei gadget is pictured within the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Picture

DONGGUAN, China/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Huawei Applied sciences [HWT.UL] unveiled on Friday its proprietary working system to be used in smartphones and different units, as U.S. commerce curbs imposed in Could threaten to chop the Chinese language agency’s entry to essential U.S. applied sciences akin to Android.

“Concord OS is totally totally different from Android and iOS,” stated Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s client enterprise group, referring to working programs developed by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Apple Inc (AAPL.O).

“You’ll be able to develop your apps as soon as, then flexibly deploy them throughout a variety of various units,” he advised a builders’ convention held in Dongguan in southern China, the place Huawei has constructed a lavish new campus modeled after European cities.

Concord, referred to as Hongmeng in Chinese language, is prepared to be used in smartphones however Huawei prefers to stay to Android for now to help its app builders, Yu stated, including the Honor sensible display product it plans to unveil on Saturday would be the first product utilizing the Concord OS.

He stated it could be tough for Huawei to satisfy its earlier purpose of changing into the world’s largest smartphone maker by shipments this 12 months because of the U.S. curbs.

The corporate would have been capable of ship 300 million smartphones this 12 months with out such restrictions, Yu stated.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Enhancing by Miyoung Kim and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Vivendi in talks to promote 10% of Common Music Group to Tencent

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PARIS (Reuters) – Vivendi (VIV.PA) is in talks to promote a 10% stake in its prized and profitable Common Music Group (UMG) to Chinese language tech firm Tencent (0700.HK) because it seeks to develop its presence in Asia.

FILE PHOTO: The emblem of Common Music Group (UMG) is seen at a constructing in Zurich, Switzerland July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photograph – RC1EE289B960

UMG is the world’s largest music label forward of Sony Music Leisure and Warner Music, and is dwelling to artists similar to Girl Gaga, Taylor Swift, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

The French media conglomerate stated on Tuesday that the deal would give UMG a preliminary fairness valuation of 30 billion euros ($33.6 billion) – higher than some had forecast – and that Tencent had an possibility to purchase an additional 10% of UMG.

Vivendi shares surged 7% as analysts welcomed the progress made on the sale of a stake in UMG and the valuation.

A cope with Tencent would increase UMG’s presence within the tightly managed Chinese language market and match nicely with the Chinese language firm’s Tencent Music Leisure (TME.N) unit.

“The valuation seems to be good, and the progress made on the UMG deal can also be optimistic,” stated Gregory Moore, fund supervisor at Keren Finance, which owns Vivendi shares.

Vivendi’s Chief Government Officer Arnaud de Puyfontaine stated final month that proceeds of the sale of as much as 50% of UMG can be used for bolt-on acquisitions and “vital” share buybacks.

Managed by billionaire Vincent Bollore, Vivendi is in search of to money in on the rising public thirst for subscription and ad-based music streaming companies, which have propelled UMG’s income over the past 4 years.

“Along with Tencent, Vivendi hopes to enhance the promotion of UMG’s artists, with whom UMG has created the best catalog of recordings and songs ever, in addition to establish and promote new abilities in new markets,” Vivendi stated in an announcement.

Vivendi first informed markets it might promote a part of UMG a 12 months in the past however had made little progress till asserting final month that it had chosen funding banks to begin a proper sale means of a minority stake, which must be finalised by the beginning of subsequent 12 months.

Funding banks have estimated the enterprise is value something between 17 billion to 44 billion euros.

Vivendi additionally stated on Tuesday that it was persevering with the method to promote additional minority stakes in UMG to different companions.

($1 = 0.8925 euros)

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Enhancing by Kirsten Donovan

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CBS stations go dark for DirecTV customers amid contract dispute with AT&T

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FILE PHOTO: An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) – CBS Corp (CBS.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N) failed to renew their contact, resulting in millions of DirecTV subscribers losing access to CBS programming.

CBS television stations in over a dozen U.S. cities, including New York and Los Angeles, went dark for DirecTV customers effective 0200 ET (0600 GMT), CBS said in a statement on Saturday.

“While we continue to negotiate in good faith and hope that AT&T agrees to fair terms soon, this loss of CBS programming could last a long time,” CBS added, as the companies blamed one another for the deal’s collapse.

CBS, the network with hit shows like “NCIS” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” is directing customers to a website called “KeepCBS.com”, where they are urged to mail, call or post messages onto DirecTV’s social media pages.

In a separate statement AT&T said that they “were willing to continue to negotiate and also offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase.”

In March, AT&T renewed its contract with Viacom Inc (VIAB.O) avoiding a blackout of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central for users of the telecom carrier’s pay TV service DirecTV.

CBS had informed its users on Tuesday that they should be prepared for a blackout from June 19, unless an agreement was reached with AT&T.

Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Powell

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