Suddenlink threatens blackout of Viacom channels

Suddenlink is threatening to pull Viacom channels off its program guide on Oct. 1 if it can't get the terms it wants a licensing renewal deal.

The following message was posted on the SuddenlinkOnYourSide.com site Friday: "Because Viacom still demands a significant pay increase, despite declining viewership, Suddenlink asked for a price for only the Viacom channels (like TV Land, Comedy Central, and others) that our customers watch the most. Viacom responded by further increasing its price demands."

A day earlier, Suddenlink noted that it "has negotiated new contracts with the likes of Turner and Disney for some of the most popular channels on your lineup, including TNT, TBS, ESPN, and ABC Family. Recently, we've been negotiating a new contract with Viacom, the owner of channels like MTV, VH-1, and others. Viacom demanded a significant increase in payments, even though viewership has decreased in the last several years for its main channels, some by almost 30%. Please stay tuned for more information."

Viacom responded with the following statement, obtained by Multichannel News: "Suddenlink's statements are all part of their negotiation playbook. The increase we are asking for is fair. Viacom's networks are the best performing cable network group and account for nearly 20 percentof all cable viewing. Additionally, we drive nearly a third of all video on demand viewing by Suddenlink customers. Suddenlink paid more for ESPN Networks in the deal it just completed than we're asking for all 24 of our networks combined, even though we deliver far greater value.  We are continuing to make every effort to reach an agreement with Suddenlink."

Viacom has aggressively sought to maintain the bundle of non-preferred channels with premiere networks like Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon in carriage renewal negotiations with operators. But MSOs have been drawing the line against the conglomerate.

In April, Cable One pulled Viacom's 22 networks off the program guides of its 700,000 video subscribers, and to date has not put them back. Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), meanwhile, is suing Viacom in a New York federal court over its bundling practices. The court has refused Viacom's attempt to have that complaint tossed.

For more:
- visit this Suddenlink website
- read this Batrop Enterprise story
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
Cable One preps replacements for Viacom channels
Viacom to deliver channels to Sony's new OTT service
Viacom-Cablevision antitrust battle escalates with fraud allegations

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