US pay-TV platform DirecTV has pulled the plug on 17 Viacom-owned channels including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy following a row over carriage fees.
The channels -went dark at 23.50 yesterday after Viacom failed to achieve what it claimed to be a “fair deal” for its content after a series of negotiations with DirecTV executives.
The dispute marks the latest in a long line of clashes in the US between content providers and pay-TV platforms over carriage fees. AMC Networks was embroiled in rows with AT&T and Dish Networks just last week.
DirecTV claims Viacom has been seeking an increase of almost a third on the pair’s previous deal. It said it had made a last-ditch offer yesterday to keep the channels on air but was forced to pull them when Viacom ignored the approach.
“We have been very willing to get a deal done, but Viacom is pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30% increase, which equates to an extra US$1bn, 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, the pay-TV operation’s executive VP of content, strategy and development.
Chang also alleged Viacom “took these channels away” from viewers, but Viacom countered, saying it was “deeply disappointed” DirecTV had “dropped” them. The number of Viacom nets gone dark rises to 26 if HD versions are also taken into account.
“We proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber, and we remained willing to negotiate that deal right up to this evening’s deadline. However, DirecTV refused to engage in meaningful conversation,” Viacom continued in a statement.
Both sides say they are working toward a resolution. For the time being, DirecTV is running replacement channels in the slots vacated. For example, programmes from Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Sprout, The Hub and Boomerang are running in place of Nick. Viacom content is still available free to subscribers via DirecTV’s website.