Viacom-NCTC programming deal rejected by community-owned operator MPW

Muscatine Power and Water, a local utility and digital cable TV provider in Iowa, has decided it would rather switch off than fight when it comes to the newly negotiated program carriage agreement between the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) and Viacom. Multiple NTSC members, including one of the largest, Cable One, have also rejected the agreement.

In a press release, MPW said customer-owners voted 4-1 for MPW DigitalTV to decline the agreement struck by its purchasing cooperative. It has thus removed Viacom channels like Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon from its lineup.

"It's a tough call, but it speaks to our view that the cable TV industry has to stand up to the outrageous demands of programmers," Sal LoBianco, MPW's general manager said in a press release. "As a community-owned communications utility, our motivation is to protect our customers--our neighbors--from significant fee increases wherever possible."

Erika Cox, director of employee and community relations said that Viacom's offer was just too high for the small operator to accept without passing along substantial rate increases.

"We expected that Viacom would make a reasonable offer that we'd be able to accept with minimal effect on cable rates, but that didn't happen," she said. "Faced with the choice of accepting Viacom's multiple, excessive fee increases, absorbing some of the costs and passing on some to subscribers, we decided to poll our cable customers and the survey results were astounding."

The actions affect only MPW DigitalTV customers on Select tier and above. Those customers will receive a special rate reduction starting May 1. The service provider will also make a "complete list of alternative online viewing options" available on its website for those who would like to continue to watch the programming.

This is the first time the utility has been unable to reach agreement with a programmer, MPW said. Previously, NCTC worked out successful deals with Turner Networks, A&E Networks, NBCUniversal Networks and Fox Cable Networks.

For more:
- see this press release (.pdf)

Related articles:
Viacom signs NCTC carriage deal, but Cable One refuses to restore MTV Networks
Cable One preps replacements for Viacom channels
NCTC, Viacom retransmission dispute nears deadline
Dish, Hearst Television battle over retrans contract
ACA, NTCA: Comcast-TWC merger will 'likely' result in 'higher prices and fewer choices for consumers'