DirecTV customers lose MTV, Nickelodeon in Viacom war

This undated file image released by Nickelodeon shows This undated file image released by Nickelodeon shows a scene from the animated show "SpongeBob SquarePants." Photo Credit: AP

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LOS ANGELES - DirecTV subscribers have lost “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Daily Show” and “Mob Wives.”

Unable to reach a deal with Viacom, parent of several popular cable channels, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and VH1, DirecTV is no longer carrying the media giant’s networks. DirecTV has almost 20 million subscribers around the nation. 

Both sides blamed each other for the channels coming off the satellite broadcaster on Tuesday at midnight. Viacom said DirecTV dropped the channels without warning. DirecTV countered that its hand was forced by Viacom.

In a statement DirecTV said it had offered a new proposal  with a request to keep the channels on during negotiations Tuesday and Wednesday, “but never heard back, so DirecTV had to comply with their demand to take the channels down or face legal action.” 

Derek Chang, DirecTV’s executive vice president of content, said Viacom is “pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30 percent increase” for its channels. Chang added that Viacom is demanding the increase although ratings for many of its main networks have plummeted and much of Viacom’s programming can be seen for free online.

Viacom said it had “proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber” and that it hopes that “DirecTV will work with us toward a resolution, and stop denying its subscribers access to the networks they watch most.”

Feuds between programmers and distributors over rates are not uncommon but it is rare when channels are actually taken out of service. DirecTV risks losing subscribers and Viacom could see its ratings take a hit from the loss of distribution.

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