Cable Operators

EchoStar-Viacom Deal Extended Again

2/27/2004 9:16 AM Eastern

A federal court in Oakland, Calif., Friday granted EchoStar Communications Corp. a 10-day extension on a temporary restraining order that prevents Viacom Inc. from pulling the feed for CBS and the company’s cable networks from Dish Network satellite subscribers.

But the court did not grant EchoStar’s request that it issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent Viacom from pulling its programming from EchoStar.

EchoStar’s carriage deal with Viacom expired Dec. 31. The direct-broadcast satellite company sued Viacom Jan. 7 after it claimed that Viacom executives threatened to pull its CBS feed from EchoStar unless it agreed to hefty license-fee increases for its cable networks.

The U.S. District Court in Oakland issued a temporary restraining order Jan. 16, which blocked Viacom from pulling its signals and ensured that EchoStar customers would be able to watch the Feb. 1 broadcast of Super Bowl XXXVIII on CBS.

EchoStar spokesman Steve Caulk said Friday that the company is still willing to negotiate a new carriage deal with Viacom "if they’re willing to negotiate with us in a way that we think is legal."

Caulk said Judge Claudia Wilken noted in her ruling Friday that there is a "substantial likelihood" of EchoStar prevailing in the case.

Viacom said Friday that it is confident it would prevail at a trial if EchoStar doesn't agree to its terms for a new carriage deal.

"The judge has accepted that EchoStar avoid any harm by concluding negotiations on the fair proposal that was on the table before the lawsuit," Viacom said in a prepared statement.

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