The latest in what is proving to be a long summer of bitter carriage disputes, DirecTV has switched off 26 channels owned by Viacom. The list includes such entertainment stalwarts as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The channels went dark at midnight for DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers. 17 channels are involved plus their HDTV versions.
DirecTV and Viacom are in dispute over the renewal of the carriage fees contract which expired at midnight July 10th. DirecTV, in a late-night statement, said they had tried to communicate with Viacom with an offer to keep the channels on air while negotiations continued. Viacom is arguing that despite its channels getting around 20 per cent of DirecTV’s viewing figures it receives barely 5 per cent of DirecTV’s programming budget.
DirecTV says the Viacom claims would amount to more than $1 billion. “We have been very willing to get a deal done, but Viacom is pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30 per cent increase, which equates to an extra $1 billion, despite the fact that the ratings for many of their main networks have plummeted and much of Viacom’s programming can be seen for free online,” said Derek Chang, DirecTV’s EVP/ Content, Strategy and Development. “Viacom sent us a letter last night that outlined our obligations to remove the channels by midnight or face legal action just as they were falsely telling viewers DirecTV was responsible. Let’s be clear, Viacom took these channels away from DirecTV viewers,” he told journalists.
“We have absolutely no problem compensating Viacom fairly, but they have now knowingly put our customers in the unreasonable position of either accepting their extravagant financial demands or losing some of their favorite TV shows,” said Chang. “We feel our customers should not have to pay more for these networks than the customers of any other TV provider. We reiterated this to Viacom today and have not heard back from them.”
However, DirecTV is not alone. Hearst Television is in dispute with Time Warner Cable over carriage fees, while EchoStar’s Dish Network is in a similar spat with Rainbow/AMC.