Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has quietly moved two Viacom-owned channels, Spike TV and CMT, out of a less expensive programming tier in a move it says is intended to cut programming costs.
The channels, along with Pop (formerly the TV Guide Channel), are no longer available in the "Digital Starter" tier and have been instead relegated to the "Digital Premium" package, which is $10 a month more expensive.
Comcast said its program rights deal allows it to make this change -- an assertion disputed by Viacom.
"Our goal is to provide customers with the best value and most viewing choices," Comcast said in a statement. "However, due to increasing programming costs, we sometimes need to make adjustments to our channel lineup. These are not easy decisions, and we know that some customers will be disappointed."
Of course, this news isn't pleasing to Viacom, which failed last year to renew carriage agreements with Cable One, Suddenlink and a number of other smaller cable operators.
"Comcast has moved both Spike TV and CMT to more expensive tiers of service," a Viacom statement said. "This action is in direct violation of our agreement and will increase costs for customers who will now have to pay more for networks that were previously included in less expensive packages. We hope our Comcast viewers will continue to recognize the value of our services featuring hit shows such as Spike's Lip Sync Battle and CMT's I Love Kellie Pickler and seek them out, but we want them to know that all the extra money from these higher monthly fees goes directly to Comcast and is not shared with Spike TV or CMT.
"We continue to address our concerns directly with Comcast and hope their customers will do so as well," Viacom added.
In a similar move last year, Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) moved ESPN and ESPN 2 to an add-on package in an economy bundle it calls "Custom TV." ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney, are currently in litigation with Verizon over this.
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