Rural cable operators have succeeded in avoiding a Viacom blackout. Viacom and the National Cable Television Cooperative announced late today that they have reached agreement on the terms of a new contract.
The NCTC handles negotiations with Viacom and other content providers on behalf of more than 800 small cable companies who are members of the American Cable Association. Viacom provides several popular cable channels, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, Spike TV and others.
The agreement was reached after a previous contract between the two organizations expired at 11:59 p.m. yesterday. Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed.
Some ACA members initially argued that the prices Viacom was seeking were too high and had been bracing themselves for the possibility that Viacom might pull its content when the deadline for a new contract passed. Pulling content is a step that the content provider has taken in the past. But Viacom held off on taking that step today while the two sides continued to negotiate.
In an announcement of the contract renewal issued jointly with NCTC, Viacom Executive Vice President of Content Distribution and Marketing Denise Denson commended NCTC for “collaborating with Viacom to reach a fair deal that puts viewers first.”
Reportedly Viacom did pull its content today from at least one small cable company that does not negotiate with Viacom through the NCTC but whose contract expired at the same time..htm Viacom has not said whether it has reached agreement with that company or any other small cablecos with whom it negotiates directly.
Based on comments made by NCTC Executive Vice President of Programming Judy Meyka in today’s announcement, it appears that TV Everywhere is an element of the new contract. Meyka said NCTC is “pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide opportunities for our members to distribute their content over multiple platforms.”
Today’s announcement did not state whether Viacom made any concessions on its policy of requiring cable companies to take programming bundles rather than allowing them to pick and choose cable channels. Mandatory bundling has been unpopular with cable operators but Viacom has made few, if any, exceptions on that requirement.
Bundling will face an important test when Viacom faces off with cable operator Cablevision in connection with Cablevision’s legal challenge to bundling requirements.