DirecTV customers lose Viacom channels after fees dispute

A DirecTV satellite dish is attached to a

A DirecTV satellite dish is attached to a roof at a home in Palo Alto, Calif. (May 6, 2010) (Credit: AP)

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n">n">DirecTV said its customers were left without Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and 14 other channels on Wednesday after Viacom Inc demanded its networks be dropped from the satellite TV distributor's lineup as a result of a dispute over fees.

DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite TV provider, said its executives approached Viacom with a new proposal and a request to continue broadcasting the channels during talks, but received no response.

The standoff is the latest conflict between media companies and cable and satellite TV providers over the cost of content. These providers pay a fee to media companies that allows them to carry channels such as MTV.

Buying television programs is the single biggest cost for distributors and in recent years they have taken a harder line against what they view as unreasonable "carriage fee" increases by content producers like Viacom.

"We have been very willing to get a deal done, but Viacom is pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30 percent increase, which equates to an extra $1 billion, despite the fact that the ratings for many of their main networks have plummeted," Derek executive vice president of DirecTV said in a statement.

In a blog post on Viacom's website, spokesman Mark Jafar wrote that despite Viacom's "best efforts" DirecTV rejected proposals to renew their contract.

In a similar dispute two years ago, Cablevision customers lost Walt Disney Co's ABC channel for several hours, transmission starting again in the live broadcast of the Academy Awards.

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