DirecTV, Viacom Clinch Carriage Pact

17 Viacom Networks Return to Satellite Operator After Nine-Day Hiatus

Viacom and DirecTV announced Friday morning that they have reached a long-term agreement for 17 of the programmer's networks, after a nine-day hiatus that left some 20 million satellite subscribers without Nick, MTV, Comedy Central and other channels.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

All 17 Viacom networks -- including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, CMT, Logo, Spike, TV Land, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic, Palladia, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick, Tr3s and Centric -- plus HD simulcasts will return to DirecTV's channel lineup immediately.

As part of the agreement, DirecTV has an option to add the Epix premium movie service to its entertainment offerings. Epix had been a sticking point late in the negotiations, with DirecTV claiming Viacom was demanding that the operator take the channel for more than $500 million; Viacom disputed that, saying it offered a variety of options to DirecTV.

In a statement, Viacom said, "Viacom is extremely pleased to bring its programming back to DirecTV subscribers, and thanks everyone affected by the disruption for their patience and understanding during this challenging period."

"We are very pleased to be able to restore the channels to our customers and thank them for their unprecedented patience and support," Derek Chang, DirecTV's executive vice president of content strategy and development, said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that Viacom took the channels away from customers to try to gain leverage, but in the end, it's clear our customers recognized that tactic for what it was."

The No. 1 satellite TV distributor had alleged Viacom was asking for a 30% increase in carriage fees, amounting to an extra $1 billion over the lifetime of the deal. Viacom asserted the hike amounted to "a couple pennies" per day per subscriber.

Viacom forced DirecTV to stop carrying its networks on July 10 after they couldn't reach a deal, and the standoff -- at just over nine days -- was one of the longest programming blackouts on a national scale.

"The attention surrounding this unnecessary and ill-advised blackout by Viacom has accomplished one key thing: It serves notice to all media companies that bullying TV providers and their customers with blackouts won't get them a better deal," Chang said. "It's high time programmers ended these anti-consumer blackouts once and for all and prove our industry is about enabling people to connect to their favorite programs rather than denying them access."

The dispute elicited public support from several DirecTV competitors, with statements from Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and the American Cable Association criticizing steep price hikes from programmers.

In a separate current carriage dispute, Dish Network stopped carrying AMC Networks' AMC, IFC and WeTV on June 30. Those two companies have said they are not in active negotiations on a new deal.