DirecTV's York on Stewart/Colbert departures: 'Viacom has lost its two biggest tent poles'

While everyone from Democratic Party operatives to TV critics to casual fans mourn the pending departure of Jon Stewart from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, the channel's parent company, Viacom, must now figure out a way to move forward without a key asset.

And with a big renewal negotiation with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) ahead of it, and with Stewart's departure closely following the exit of another Comedy Central linchpin, Stephen Colbert, pay-TV industry executives are predicting an uphill battle for Viacom.

"The pay-TV content ecosystem is increasingly about having tent-pole programming, and Viacom has arguably lost their two biggest tent poles over the last few months," says Dan York, chief content officer at DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), told the Wall Street Journal.

Comedy Central has been one of Viacom's key carrots in carriage negotiations as other Viacom channels have sagged in audience performance.

Viacom's ad revenue and linear TV ratings have been steadily dropping. Affiliate revenue, which spiked 8 percent in Q4, has been holding up the conglomerate's bottom line. But the company lost 2 million pay-TV subscribers in 2014, with smaller systems like CableOne and Suddenlink choosing not to re-up carriage deals.

Media analysts have openly pondered as to whether larger operators like Dish will seek to employ the same strategy.

Viacom has played down this notion, noting that it has locked up long-term distribution covering about 70 percent of pay-TV homes.

"These are important shows, but they are two among many across the Viacom portfolio," Viacom spokesman Carl Folta told WSJ. "The reason we are as widely distributed as we are is that we have the biggest share, in the most attractive, young demographic, of any content company."

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story

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