Cablevision Systems Corp. filed an antitrust lawsuit Tuesday against Viacom Inc., saying that Viacom forced it to pay for 14 cable networks it did not want. The suit said the extra channels were required as a condition of carrying the media company's more popular channels such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.
The case is the latest flare up in the contentious relationships between distributors and program makers as the pay-TV industry's growth appears to have peaked. Viacom and its media company rivals regularly sell bundles of cable channels to operators as a common practice.
"Viacom effectively forces Cablevision's customers to pay for and receive little-watched channels in order to get the channels they actually want," Bethpage-based Cablevision said in a statement released Tuesday.
The case is under seal and not available for public viewing.
A spokesman for Viacom did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Cablevision is seeking to have its latest carriage agreement with Viacom voided and it also wants Viacom banned from making similar deals involving networks it calls ancillary. Cablevision says these less popular channels include CMT, MTV Hits, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, Palladia and VH1 Classic.
Last summer, Viacom blacked out its networks from the biggest U.S. satellite provider, DirecTV in 20 million homes for nine full days, marking the most high profile programming blackout to date.
Cablevision competitor Time Warner Cable Inc. has also complained about carrying low-rated networks and has dropped channels such as the arts-focused Ovation.
The case is in federal court in Manhattan.