DirecTV, Viacom dispute darkens 26 cable channels

DirecTV has dropped 26 channels for nearly 20 million subscribers, who have lost access to Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and other networks owned by Viacom, as financial negotiations between the two parties reached an impasse Tuesday. Viacom said DirecTV dropped the channels without any warning, while DirecTV countered that its hand was forced by Viacom.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
In this 2010 file photo, a DirecTV satellite dish is attached to a roof at a home in Palo Alto, Calif. Because of a financial dispute with Viacom, early 20 million DirecTV subscribers lost access to 26 channels Tuesday night, including MTV and Nickelodeon.

DirecTV subscribers have lost “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Daily Show” and “Mob Wives.”

Unable to reach a deal with Viacom, parent of several popular cable channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and VH1, DirecTV is no longer carrying the media giant’s networks. DirecTV has almost 20 million subscribers around the nation.

Both sides blamed each other for the channels coming off of the satellite broadcaster on Tuesday evening. Viacom said DirecTV dropped the channels without warning. DirecTV countered that its hand was forced by Viacom.

“DirecTV executives reached out to Viacom both yesterday and today with a new proposal and a request to keep the channels on while we continued to negotiate, but never heard back, so DirecTV had to comply with their demand to take the channels down or face legal action,” the company said in a statement.

Derek Chang, DirecTV’s executive vice president of content, said Viacom is “pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30 percent increase, which equates to an extra $1 billion” for its channels. Chang went on to say that those increases are being sought “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.”

Viacom said it had “proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber” and that it hopes that “DirecTV will work with us toward a resolution, and stop denying its subscribers access to the networks they watch most.”

Feuds between programmers and distributors over rates are not uncommon but it is rare when channels are actually taken off the service. DirecTV risks losing subscribers and Viacom could see its ratings take a hit from the loss of distribution.

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