Altice carriage deal returns Viacom channels to Suddenlink

Viacom programming, including the long-running Nickelodeon hit "SpongeBob SquarePants," will return to the Suddenlink programming grid after a 30-month absence.

After a two-and-a-half-year absence, Viacom channels will return to the Suddenlink Communications program guide, with the embattled programming conglomerate signing a multiyear carriage deal with new parent company Altice USA.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t announced. But the agreement combines the advanced advertising capabilities of Viacom and Altice to provide measurement and analytics across video delivery platforms. The deal also includes rights provisioning for digital distribution, virtual reality and 4K.

Viacom settled a $10 billion channel bundling lawsuit with Cablevision in October 2015, about seven months before Altice closed on its $17.7 billion takeover of the Bethpage, New York, MSO.

That carriage deal still had time on it, but Comedy Central, MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, VH1 and other Viacom channels have been off Suddenlink since October 2014, when the midsized operator chose to walk away from carriage renewal talks with the media company. 

Not that the distinctions between Optimum and Suddenlink will be necessary much longer. Altice announced earlier this week that both brands will give way to the “Altice” moniker by the second quarter of 2018.

Putting aside Charter’s decision to downgrade Viacom out of its basic tier recently, “what’s important about this agreement, which includes [Viacom’s] flagship six and many other networks, is that it speaks to the broader relationship/offering of Viacom, which also includes an advanced advertising component and data - particularly given the view that Altice has strong advanced ad capabilities," Jefferies analyst John Janedis told investors in an afternoon note Thursday.

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“We are pleased to establish a new partnership between Altice USA and Viacom,” said Altice Chief Content Officer Michael Schreiber, in a statement. “Our joint efforts to find flexible and creative solutions will benefit Altice USA's customers as we look to provide the best video experience in our markets, build on our innovative data-driven advertising capabilities, and provide our customers with access to Viacom’s marquee programming."

Added Tom Gorke, Viacom executive VP of content distribution: “We are delighted to extend and strengthen our successful relationship with Altice USA, ensuring that loyal fans across the country will have access to Viacom’s must-see content. These agreements demonstrate our commitment to collaborating on next-generation solutions that provide a better experience for viewers and exciting new business opportunities for our partners. Altice USA has a strong growth strategy, fueled by the delivery of outstanding content on an outstanding network, and we are proud to play a role in their next chapter.”