Even though it infers it didn't, Viacom (NYSE: VIA) apparently succumbed to the needling and heeded the advice of one of its top attractions—frequently funny faux newsman Jon Stewart—to restore its online video content.
Stewart returned from vacation to his anchor seat on The Daily Show only to find that his parent company, in a snit with DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), had pulled down viewers' web access to the show to prevent DirecTV subscribers from seeing Viacom's programming while their satellite provider refused to agree to increased license fees.
"Viacom, DirecTV, what are you doing here?" Stewart, asked, according to Tulsa World. "You've got ad campaigns blaming people for taking the shows away. Telling people to rise up and demand it like it's some kind of basic cable Arab Spring. I've got news for you. It's not. None of this matters. None of this is indispensable."
For those who just tuned in, Viacom and DirecTV got into what's become an inevitable fight between service providers and content owners over how much to pay for programming. And, like the ongoing battle between Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) and AMC Networks (Nasdaq: AMCX), it turned ugly, then turned he said-she said about who was to blame, and then turned dark on DirecTV program lineups.
That's when things got interesting. DirecTV told its subscribers to forget about TV and go to the web and find the Viacom shows they love to watch. Viacom, in a move designed to slash its nose to spite its face, cut off web access to its material for just about everyone.
Which was OK when Stewart and his comedy cohort Stephen Colbert were on vacation and the shows were in reruns. When Stewart returned—and the shows became more valuable since no one likes reruns—things got interesting. But rather than continue to keep the now-valuable shows offline and away from DirecTV subs, Viacom restored them.
This move, they said, had nothing to do with any pressure from Jon Stewart. A blog post even pointed to the comedy of his remarks.
"Despite reports last week that we had pulled all our full episode content from the web, we still have literally thousands of full episodes available online for free, and we brought The Daily Show and Colbert back online to coincide with their return with new episodes. We hope this is helpful to our fans with DirecTV who have yet to switch to a cable/satellite provider that carries Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and all our 26 networks," the network said on its blog site.
While reports also suggested that the two sides are still talking, DirecTV, like a pro sports team in a strike season, stocked up on replacement channels that were not provided by Viacom.
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