Cablevision pays $1bn for ‘unwanted’ Viacom channels

Cablevision has released court papers it had filed in its antitrust dispute with Viacom which claim that Cablevision’s bottom line costs, including penalties, for lesser-watched, unwanted Viacom channels tops $1 billion.

Cablevision is arguing that Viacom is forcing it to take a comprehensive bundle of channels, many of which are not demanded by subscribers, but which must be taken if it wants to carry popular channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. Cablevision described the approach of Viacom as being an “anti-consumer abuse of market power”.

Viacom strongly defends its programming policy, saying it helped cable operators. “At the request of distributors, Viacom and other programmers have long offered discounts to those who agree to provide additional network distribution,” said an earlier Viacom statement. “Many distributors take advantage of these win-win and pro-consumer arrangements. Reflecting the highly competitive cable programming business, these arrangements have been upheld by a number of federal courts and on appeal. Viacom will vigorously defend this transparent attempt by Cablevision to use the courts to renegotiate our existing two-month-old agreement.”

Viacom added: “Cablevision admits in its own filing [that] these numbers do not concern actual ‘deal’ terms, but only Viacom’s initial offers, which were made at the request of Cablevision. Viacom’s ‘rate card’ prices are paid by hundreds of distributors, but never by Cablevision, which has always exploited its market clout to extract deep discounts in every contract negotiation with Viacom and every other programmer.”

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