On Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the dispute was publicized by both sides, first by Viacom, which warned DirecTV customers that they could lose access to Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and its other cable channels early Wednesday morning because contract talks with DirecTV had “reached an impasse.” DirecTV, in turn, said in a statement that it had offered Viacom “increased fees for their networks going forward; we just can’t afford the extreme increases they are asking for.”
On Tuesday evening, neither company publicly commented on the status of the contract negotiations, suggesting that a channel blackout was still possible after midnight Eastern time on Wednesday.
Some of the 17 channels are well known among customers: Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, BET, CMT, TV Land, Comedy Central, Spike. But some of the others bundled with them are not, including Nick@Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, NickToons, VH1 Classic, Logo, Tr3s, Centric and Palladia.
“Programmers like Viacom typically won’t allow anyone to buy their channels individually, but we hope to change that,” DirecTV said in its statement on Tuesday morning. “We currently pay them hundreds of millions of dollars every year already, and if Viacom thinks their networks are worth a billion more, then you have to be able to select what’s most important in your own living room. It’s your money, so you should be able to decide.”
The debate about bundling comes as the practice is being examined by government regulators and lawyers for evidence of anti-competitive behavior. Some regulators are concerned that the practice inhibits innovation by online video upstarts and other companies.