Cablevision, Viacom settle antitrust lawsuit, hint at 'mutually beneficial business arrangements'

Cablevision announced that it settled its antitrust lawsuit against Viacom. The companies did not announce the terms of their agreement. The companies also said that they are "simultaneously entering into mutually beneficial business arrangements," but they did not provide details.

"We are pleased to have put these matters behind us in ways that benefit both of our companies and look forward to working together to benefit Cablevision's customers," the companies said in a joint statement.

The brief announcement by Cablevision and Viacom brings to a close two years of acrimonious litigation between the cable provider and the programmer.

Cablevision first filed its complaint in February 2013 in a Manhattan federal court, alleging that Viacom was "illegally forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched ancillary networks its customers do not want, such as Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic, in order to carry must-have networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central."

A judge agreed to push the case forward last year, creating hope in the pay-TV industry that the case could provide valuable legal precedent to combat fast-rising program licensing fees.

And just last month, lawyers for Cablevision and Game Show Network (GSN) concluded oral arguments in front of an administrative law judge. GSN is arguing that the MSO improperly moved its female-skewing network to an add-on sports tier in 2011. Viacom sent a letter to the federal judge now overseeing that case, accusing Viacom's testimony in the GSN matter of undermining its anti-trust argument.

The new settlement between Cablevision and Viacom comes amid challenges for both companies. Cablevision recently agreed to a $17.7 billion takeover bid by European telecom magnet Altice NV, which has pledged to trim $900 million from the MSO's annual budget over the next five years. And Viacom continues to work to encourage the likes of Dish Network and others to carry its programming after Suddenlink and Cable One decided to discontinue carrying Viacom's offerings in order to cut costs for their customers.

Indeed, its deal with Cablevision is Viacom's second major step forward in the U.S. market in recent weeks. Earlier this month, AT&T renewed its carriage deal with Viacom following the expiration of its carriage deal for U-verse on Sept. 30. The move ensures both U-verse and DirecTV customers will still be able to watch Viacom channels like MTV and Comedy Central.

For more:
- see this release

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