Direct TV-Viacom impasse means Spike TV, MTV, other channels blacked out
July 10, 2012
Ad Age reports that negotiations between Direct TV and Viacom have reached an impasse and Viacom-owned networks on the DTV will be pulled July 10th at midnight as a result. For MMA and pro wrestling fans, it means that they will be left without Bellator and TNA Wrestling until an agreement can be reached.
The blackout would affect DTV’s 19.9 million customers. Viacom made the impasse known in a blog post on Monday. The contract between the two actually ended June 30th but was extended 10 days in attempt to reach an agreement.
Via Viacom’s blog:
Viacom is asking DirecTV for an increase of a couple of pennies per day per subscriber. That’s far less than DirecTV pays other programmers with fewer viewers than Viacom. Viacom has always been open to negotiating and hopes to get a deal done
Direct TV counters that Viacom is asking for 30% more than it already receives which DTV states is $1 Billion more per year. It also pressures for an “a la carte” structure in which viewers can pick and choose Viacom channels it wants.
DTV has set up a link which helps viewers find “Other Ways to Watch” Viacom programming.
In addition to MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, SpikeTV will be blocked off from viewing for DTV customers. Its the latest in the fight over retransmission rights: the price a distributor (e.g., Direct TV) pays for a bundle of channels from a programmer (e.g. Viacom). As programmers seek higher fees, distributors have challenged the rate hike. The public fight results in a PR war and a game of chicken to see which company will concede.
The Ad Age article quotes industry analysts which predicted this dispute as ratings pressure on networks such as MTV and Nickelodeon have led to distributors to drop its channels. Ratings on some networks have dropped causing distributors to rethink the bundling practice.
The popular AMC (“Mad Men”) channel was dropped by The Dish Network recently due to the fact it had to carry other low-rated networks.
It appears that carriage disputes are becoming more common and as there are more ways to watch programming such as video on demand, online, iPads and mobile devices, programmers become concerned with the ratings for some of its networks. For distributors, the concern is that it has to pay for programming bundles and push for a “pick and choose” way of accessing networks. Of course, one might argue that distributors do not pass along the “pick and choose” networks to its subscribers and we must choose from a tier system.
What it means for combat sports fans is that DTV fans may be without access to Bellator and TNA Impact Wrestling. This would hurt both companies considering Bellator’s build toward Spike TV. Fortunately, it’s in its summer season and there are only a couple events scheduled for MTV2. And those can be seen on Spike.com. For TNA Wrestling, it is moving to 3 hours and just instituted a live format. There’s more than TNA could lose considering its new changes while Bellator seems to be in a holding pattern until 2013. While both programs are likely to be accessible over the internet, it forecloses a huge portion of the American viewing audience.
We will keep you posted on whether the blackout will happen.