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MTV, Comedy Central Return to DirecTV as Viacom Contract Dispute Ends

During spat, 26 channels were blacked out

Courtesy of MTV
July 20, 2012 10:40 AM ET

DirecTV and Viacom have resolved their 10-day contract dispute, bringing channels including MTV, Comedy Central, BET and more back to satellite subscribers, Deadline reports.

The spat between the network and provider took more channels (26 in all) from more consumers than any other similar dispute between a pay TV distributor and programmer.

The news will most likely come as a relief to investors, who feared a prolonged dispute and consequential blackout would harm both companies' bottom lines. Hollywood studios should be pleased as well, with some telling Deadline's Nikki Finke that it was difficult to promote new movies while Viacom's youth-oriented channels were off the air in DirecTV subscribers' homes.

While little information regarding the financial terms was disclosed, Viacom said in a statement that the deal is "long-term." Under the agreement, not only do DirecTV subscribers get all of Viacom's channels again (as well as on various devices through DirecTV Everywhere) – they also now have the option to add EPIX, the premium movie channel Viacom co-owns with MGM and Lionsgate.

Less than two days ago a Viacom executive said that negotiations had stalled. With ratings, and thus ad sales, declining on channels like Nickelodeon and MTV, Viacom's shareholders were hoping to secure increases in distributor payments to compensate for the loses. DirecTV, however, was unsure whether it was worth paying the extra price as audiences dropped; the company also needed to show it would stay firm on programming costs.

"The attention surrounding this unnecessary and ill-advised blackout by Viacom has accomplished one key thing," said DirecTV's executive vice president of Content Strategy and Development, Derek Chang. "It serves notice to all media companies that bullying TV providers and their customers with blackouts won’t get them a better deal. It’s high time programmers ended these anti-consumer blackouts once and for all and prove our industry is about enabling people to connect to their favorite programs rather than denying them access."

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