By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- DirecTV may still have one of its four re-transmission points in Venezuela, but the satellite service’s signal stopped being available there Tuesday morning, as the company now owned by AT&T sought to comply with U.S. sanctions against the Nicolas Maduro regime.
“Today, AT&T Inc. announced that it has closed its DIRECTV Latin America operations in Venezuela, effective immediately. The U.S. government’s sanctions on Venezuela have prohibited the broadcast of Globovision and PDVSA’s channels, both of which are required under DIRECTV’s license to provide pay TV service in Venezuela,” the company stated in a press release. “Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DIRECTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela, a decision that was made by the company’s U.S. leadership team without any involvement or prior knowledge of the DIRECTV Venezuela team.”
Venezuela’s Cisneros Group was amongst DirecTV's original partners, as was the aerospace US firm Hughes. The service, which as of Tuesday listed 2.3 million users, was formally launched in Venezuela in 1996, with champagne served in a hill overlooking Caracas. The “pizza-size dish” was a novelty and it was said that Cisneros came up with the denomination for the satellite dish antenna on the spot. The service was Latin America-tested for the first time also in Puerto Piritu, a tiny coastal town in Eastern Venezuela, in 1994, to rave reviews.THIS IS THE END
DirecTV was the first, and largest, satellite TV service in Venezuela, becoming so popular that millions switched to it from open signal TV every time Chavez or Maduro launched one of their dreaded mandatory simulcasts. Movistar TV, Inter and others never came close in terms of numbers to DirecTV, with the Spanish firm already announcing it was downscaling operations in 2019, when it stopped taking in new customers and announced that it would pull out of Venezuela by 2020.
At first, “chavismo” had zero presence in subscription, satellite TV, giving opposition TV viewers a much needed respite from incessant government propaganda. Chavez seemed happy just to dominate open-signal TV and radio. But things began changing after Maduro’s ascent in 2013 and pro-Maduro channels in DirecTV began to multiply, with an international news one (TeleSur) and even another for the Armed Forces, FANB TV.
This morning, only the channels directly tied with the Maduro regime – Venezolana de Television, state oil company PDVSA’s PDVSA TV and news network Globovision -- were dropped, which gave Venezuelans hope that they would retain some form of DirecTV service. By midmorning however, the AT&T press release came with bad news: the pull out was complete.
PDVSA has been sanctioned since 2018 by the U.S. Treasury and Globovision’s new owner -- who took over the formerly truth-telling 24 hour news station in 2013 -- lawyer Raul Gorrin, who is an acolyte of Maduro, is also under U.S. sanctions and an indicted fugitive in the U.S.
U.S. sanctions forbid payments to Globovision.
AT&T hasn't made money in Venezuela for years as the Regime forbid the company from increasing its prices even as hyperinflation and rapid devaluations brought its monthly price to less than 15 cents. In 2015, AT&T took a $1.1 billion write-down of its assets in the country.