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DirecTV, Viacom End Spat, Agree on New Carriage Deal

25 Jul, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – Viacom and DirecTV reached a new carriage agreement late last week that ends a two-week standoff that led to MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon being blacked out in about 20 million DirecTV homes.

Financial and other terms weren’t shared, but the deal will last for seven years. The satellite giant will carry all 26 Viacom channels, or 17 when excluding HD feeds, but said it is not required to carry Epix movie channel, the premium TV joint venture of Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM, according to

In addition to the channels’ return, DirecTV customers will be able to watch Viacom programming on tablets, laptops, handhelds and other personal devices via the DirecTV Everywhere platform, says a DirecTV statement.

“A settlement was in the best interest of both parties, so I'm not surprised they worked out a deal. I think that DirecTV leveraged the black out to their advantage to pressure Viacom to settle,” said Peter Koeppel, president of Dallas- based Koeppel Direct and a member of the Response Advisory Board. “Neither Viacom or DirecTV was benefiting from the negative publicity, and I believe they realized that a protracted fight could damage their businesses, their reputation and ultimately their income, so it’s likely they were both forced to compromise in reaching a settlement.”

Despite the deal, hard feelings apparently still exist. Derek Chang, an executive vice president at DirecTV, told that the attention surrounding the blackout by Viacom “serves notice to all media companies that bullying TV providers and their customers with blackouts won’t get them a better deal …It’s high time programmers ended these anti-consumer blackouts once and for all and prove our industry is about enabling people to connect to their favorite programs rather than denying them access.”

Viacom said in a statement that it “is extremely pleased” to get its programming back to DirecTV subscribers and thanked all affected for their patience during the disruption.

Tim Hawthorne, founder of Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct and a member of the Response Advisory Board, said of the squabble, “It’s like being ringside for Frazier vs. Ali: two megastars whose confrontation is all about money, with no question of the outcome. We all knew Viacom would win in the 12th round, taking the trophy of a 20-percent increase. The real losers are the subscribers.”

During the skirmish, Comcast ran radio commercials, while DISH Network added key Viacom images of SpongeBob and Dora The Explorer on its website to lure consumers. Cablevision Systems bought keywords from Google to add consumers. A Cablevision ad read: “Direct Dropped MTV, Nick, CC & BET. Get Them Back With Optimum.” (Optimum is Cablevision’s digital video service).

And DirecTV put this message on its website: “Switching isn’t the answer. Every TV provider has disputes with networks. By getting you to switch, Viacom hopes they will get the 30-percent increase they have demanded.”

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