Coax CableRead updates to these developments at the end of this post

Viacom reportedly is looking for a big increase in what hundreds of small cable companies pay to carry popular channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV and Comedy Central. According to a notice issued by cable operator RMA Cable of Rancho Murieta, Cal., Viacom’s contract with the National Cable Television Cooperative expires March 31 and Viacom is looking for “unreasonable rates” to renew. The NCTC negotiates with content providers such as Viacom on behalf of its rural cable operators, who number 890.

The NCTC and its members are “pressing Viacom to re-think the level of the rate increase,” RMA says. But the company warns customers that Viacom “may require us to stop carriage of their channels until a final agreement is reached.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Viacom used that tactic. In 2012, for example, Viacom pulled its content from DirecTV when DirecTV balked at a 30% cost increase. At that time, Viacom ran ads blaming DirecTV for the blackout. The ads featured some of Viacom’s popular cartoon characters.

Anticipating that Viacom might use such tactics again, the NCTC has proactively created website that member companies can use to educate customers about cable operators’ programming cost challenges.

“We are your source for timely information about TV contract disputes,” says a video on the site. “Our goal is to control excessive TV network fee increases . . . so that we can keep your bill as low as possible.”

An executive from another small cable operator, South Carolina-based Hargray Communications, told local news outlet Island Packet that Viacom is looking for a rate increase that was 40 times the rate of inflation.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the American Cable Association, which represents many of the same companies that are NCTC members, today praised the role of buying groups such as NCTC. “Without a buying group like the [NCTC] customers of small- and medium-sized cable operators would pay higher fees for their television service,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka in a press release.

The press release was issued to call attention to a filing the ACA made with the FCC in comments about the commission’s new video competition report.

Telecompetitor thanks FierceCable for calling our attention to the developments with Viacom and the NCTC.

Update 1 – April 1: Read the follow up post, NCTC Letter Strives to Forestall Viacom Blackout for Rural Cablecos, for more details regarding the NCTC-Viacom dispute.

Update 2 – April 1: A deal has been reached between NCTC and Viacom avoiding a blackout. Read Viacom NCTC Deal Reached, Avoiding Rural Cable Blackout for the details.

Join the Conversation

41 thoughts on “Small Cable Operators Could Face Viacom Blackout

  1. I would contend that the Viacom Channels are not popular. These channels are viewed by less than 1% of our customers on average, with many channels not having any viewership.

  2. I would agree. Never understood how these media companies sway so much power when our subscribers don't really seem that interested in these channels. This system is BROKEN

  3. It's the Nickelodeon and TV Land that would upset our customers. MeTV is a great replacement for TV Land, but I'm not sure about the kids channels.

  4. dump them… my cable bill is already too high and quite frankly i don’t even watch most of the channel I have. if my cable bill continues to rise, it will be time to dump cable!

  5. That's ridiculous….. My TV is going crazy and my kids are freaking out because when they get TV time they watch the disney channel….. I'm confused.. Is it all about money again… I got they don't drop these channels I guess I'll have to go with a different company I'm actually getting pretty tired of all these cable companies… I vote to keep them… It's hard enough with other bills and it's just ridiculous to what we are used to!

  6. I really do not see the point of dropping any of these channels, namely Nickelodeon and TvLand, those're the two most popular from what I've seen. I highly advise against dropping them, or this could turn into a serious issue.

  7. Are You The 1%…?
    Our Cable Bill Goes Up Every YEAR…The Least You Can Do Is Supply The Channels We've Already Paid For! If You Drop Viacom…I WILL DROP YOU!
    Signed A Ninteen Year Subscriber
    Lisa Kaus

  8. @ Guest, so you are saying that channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Vh1, CMT, Spike, TV Land and a slew of other channels are not popular and are viewed by less than 1%?

    If so, then I would contend that you don't have a clue about these channels popularity and truly hope you are not in the cable business knowing so little about what people watch.

  9. Actually @cardmarc58, @Guest runs a cable company and is very familiar. Not every household finds Viacom networks popular. It varies from market to market and region to region. Viacom networks are popular with the younger demographic. Some markets skew older. The U.S. has thousands of individual markets/territories. They don't all behave the same.

  10. @theresa…the sad part is, many people are confused. Your cable company is not the culprit here. They pay companies like Viacom for the rights to offer those channels to you. In this case Viacom is wanting to raise those rates (by over 100% from some reports) that the cable company has to pay to offer those channels. Those rates/programming costs get passed on to you — in your monthly cable bill. It's not the cable company raising your rates, it's Viacom. In fact, the majority of your cable bill is for programming costs, that are charged to your cable company by companies like Viacom.

    Some cable companies certainly have customer service and billing issues. I'm not here trying to universally defend cable companies. But in this case, they are not to blame.

  11. @Lisa Kaus. I can understand your frustration. This is a complex issue. Your cable company is not the culprit here. Your cable company pays companies like Viacom for the rights to offer those channels to you. So why is this a problem now? Because Viacom is wanting to raise those rates (by over 100% from some reports) that the cable company has to pay to offer those channels. Those rates/programming costs get passed on to you — in your monthly cable bill. It's not the cable company raising your rates, it's Viacom. In fact, the majority of your cable bill is for programming costs, that are charged to your cable company by companies like Viacom and they are constantly raising the costs of that programming, and that's why your rates continue to rise. Cable companies are simply the "middle man."

    Some cable companies certainly have customer service and billing issues. I'm not here trying to universally defend cable companies. But in this case, they are not to blame.

  12. Im a wounded vet. and for years,i was never able to see good t.v.,like gun smoke and other family t.v. programs,now I fianally can with my grand kids,heres my point, I defended your freedom so you had a to run freely,i do not mind fee enterprise,but greed is another thing,quit being childish,viacom.,put your big boy pants on and come to the table with honor and fairness for all. I didn't eat bullets for your sake to dishonor me now.think about fair play or just maybe we should all write to the fcc and have them remove your lic. to do business in the u.s.a. cwo officer mick howland Cameron wi.

  13. What is going on !is every thing is about a dollar bill.we are paid to much now .so please don’t drop these channels.

    1. Hey I know for years how it is to not have cable and to have to deal with an antenna tv is. So really wouldn’t bother me I can always cancels besides it would kept me from staying in the house so much. And I could always use my 100.00 deposit. For other bills lol

  14. Maybe some of you are missing the point here…if they keep the channels your going to pay more on your bill, so if you don't mind paying more per month on your bill then by all means tell them to keep them, I on the other hand think cable is already overpriced so I vote for them to hold there ground.

  15. How could you just drop Comedy Central. Everyone I know watches that channel. I would honestly drop the service if you drop all these channels

  16. In response to momwithconcern, if Viacom continues to play 'hardball' with these cable companies, these companies will have no choice but to drop the channels. It's a simple matter of economics. Most customers are at the end of their proverbial rope with regard to price increases. Passing these unrealistic rates to the subscriber would most certainly result in a massive decline in subscriber base.

  17. Viacom has gotten too big for it’s britches. It’s demanding an unreal price increase and holding the cable companies hostage. Maybe it’s time cable companies refuse to pay the ransom and let Viacom rethink their position! Drop them if you have to.

  18. Ok so if our channels are dropped! Would you think that our bills should be cheaper for not having them? I for one watch a good bit if those channels!! And they will have a very unhappy customer. I’m not paying the same price for some channels that I don’t have as to when I got the cable.

  19. 1% really …at any given time 1 in 5 thats 20% of the viewers are viewing a Viacom network…. I don't agree with their (Viacom) tactics but 1% is a ridiculous underestimation.

  20. I think most cable is trash. Nickelodeon and CMT and most others are inappropriate in content for children. What ever happened to reading? I could care less what happens especially reality t.v. Like the Redneck family ad on CMT. So thd whole family is going up watch a pornogrsphic event with the rest of the family, kids too? Gross!!!! Let them loose GVTC.

  21. Let’s not forget that Viacom is only one of MANY content providers. What about when ESPN wants to renegotiate its contract? ESPN is the highest-priced group of channels there is.
    Now you can say “I don’t watch sports” or “Sports is all I watch”…which is the same argument some of the comments in this thread make.
    At some point, enough is enough. Viacom and ESPN are the culprits.
    To take it one step further, they need to stop paying increased prices for their actors/studios and rights for athletic events. I’m all for an athlete getting paid fairly for their talents, but when it goes overboard, the team owners pay too much, ESPN pays too much for the content, your local CATV company pays too much to ESPN, and YOU pay too much. It all trickles downhill.

  22. Viacom is only one of MANY content providers, so this will happen many times this year. Think of ESPN – they're have the highest-priced content there is.
    Now you can say "I don't watch sports so I don't care" or "I watch sports all the time". This is the same argument that some comments above make. Point is that the cable companies need to make a stand.
    While I'm all for an athlete getting paid a fair salary for their talent, what's happening is that the athlete's contacts are going overboard. You might think "so what?". "Good for them!"
    Well the team owner has to pay the athlete, so they charge more to ESPN to televise games. ESPN then charges more to the cable companies to broadcast the games, and we – the consumer – get stuck with higher prices. It all flows downhill. And I think the amount of comments above prove that it's time to take a stand.

  23. i disagree!!! these channels are very popular and i can only say their statistics are very very wrong… i guarantee these channels are watched (and very much enjoyed) by a larger percentage than 1%, as a matter of fact, in our household, these are the channels most watched… and in friends household who have kids even more so… i have paid extra just to get these channels, and agreeing with LISA KAUS, having my bill go up every year sucks… please do not drop our favorite channels…
    Signed: A Twenty One Year Subscriber

  24. Yes and no. The cable companies that supply the signal to hour house is charging you to send you the signal. If their prices to the suppliers (like Viacom) have to go up because suppliers (like Viacom) are greedy a-holes, then they have the option to increase your rates. The larger companies like Time Warner and Charter are nationwide, so they can afford to have a little bit of their profits disappear so their subscribers continue to receive the channels for which they are paying. Smaller companies cannot afford that increase from the suppliers to them, so they have to raise their rates to the customer just to stay ahead. Don't say the companies are not to blame – THEY are the ones who decide what to charge the customer, and if that rate goes up, it's because they made the decision to increase it.

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