Viacom dispute: DirecTV adds Disney Junior to offset Nickelodeon loss

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) Photo Credit: AP

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DirecTV's 20 million customers, following the loss of Nickelodeon kids’ programming because of the satellite-TV provider’s dispute with Viacom Inc., will begin receiving the 24-hour Disney Junior channel Saturday.

Disney Junior, created by Walt Disney Co. to target viewers ages 2 to 7, will be permanently added to DirecTV’s lineup as a basic channel, according to a statement Friday from the companies. Disney Junior began last year as a daytime programming block within the Disney Channel, before becoming its own 24-hour station this year.

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The move lets DirecTV bolster its children’s programming after blacking out Viacom’s 26 channels, including Nickelodeon kids’ shows such as “Dora the Explorer” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” DirecTV dropped the programs just before midnight on July 10 following stalled negotiations over the fees that the satellite company pays for the shows.

Disney Junior’s programs include cartoons and live-action shows, including “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” and “Handy Manny.” The channel also airs movies from Walt Disney Studios and its Pixar division.

The plan to add the channel was already in the works before the Viacom impasse, said Robert Mercer, a spokesman for El Segundo, California-based DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite-TV provider. Even so, the deal mitigates the need for other kids’ channels, he said.

“Given the unsurpassed quality of Disney Junior’s family- friendly programming, there’s no reason to watch anything else,” he said in an email.

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