Cable operator Suddenlink is warning customers that they could lose Viacom channels if the two companies cannot agree on what Suddenlink should pay to carry that programming. Viacom owns several popular cable channels, including Comedy Central, MTV, VH-1, Nickelodeon and others – as well as some that are not so popular.
“Viacom demanded a significant increase in payments, even though viewership has decreased in the last several years for its main channels, some by almost 30%,” wrote Suddenlink Thursday on a website set up to inform customers about the negotiations and keep them up to date on new developments.
On Friday Suddenlink noted that it had asked Viacom for a price for only its most popular channels. Viacom responded by further increasing its price demands on a per-channel basis, Suddenlink said.
Viacom/ Suddenlink Dispute Not an Isolated Event
The situation between Suddenlink and Viacom is one that’s becoming increasingly familiar as Viacom reportedly has been asking for substantial price increases as pay TV providers’ contracts come up for renewal.
One of the higher profile disputes this year was between Viacom and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), which negotiates a contract with Viacom that can apply to any of NCTC’s 800 small cable company members. The NCTC was able to negotiate a deal with Viacom, but 60 NCTC members thought the price was too high and opted to no longer carry Viacom programming. A previous dispute between Viacom and DirecTV involved DirecTV customers losing access to Viacom content during negotiations.
Viacom hasn’t hesitated to use what some might consider unsportsmanlike tactics with service providers that fight or opt out.
After pulling its channels from DirecTV during negotiations, Viacom ran ads featuring cartoon characters from some of its favorite TV shows saying that DirecTV had dropped Viacom programming and urging them to call DirecTV to complain. And when the 60 NCTC members opted not to renew Viacom contracts, Viacom prevented customers of those companies from viewing recent Viacom content previously made available to any Internet user on Viacom websites.
Anticipating such tactics, pay TV providers increasingly are setting up web pages such as the one Suddenlink has created to tell customers their side of the story. That strategy may have played a role in NCTC members continuing to receive Viacom content for a few days after the NCTC’s previous contract with Viacom expired as the two companies continued to negotiate.