Suddenlink Says 20% Price Hike, Epix At Center Of Viacom Renewal Negotiations


With the contract set to expire on Dec. 31, Suddenlink alerted its subscribers that Viacom wants a 20% hike in overall programming costs as part of  a package that would include movie service Epix.
On its Web site, Suddenlink told its customers that it continues to negotiate with Viacom, reminding its subscriber base that the contract concludes at midnight on Dec. 31.
"Unfortunately, despite a challenging economic environment, Viacom wants a more than 20% overall increase in what they are paid, which includes significant payment for a new network with R-rated programming that our customers have not requested and may not want," wrote Suddenlink.
Viacom declined to comment.
Suddenlink senior vice president, corporate communications Pete Abel said Viacom continues to include Epix, the joint venture of Paramount, Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as part of its proposal, even though the cable operator has repeatedly told the programmer its customers have not expressed any interest in the service. As part of the JV agreement, Viacom's MTVN unit is handling marketing and affiliate relations for Epix.

Abel noted that there has been "no rational or reasonable" reason why Viacom continues to include Epix in the negotiations. He added that unlike an HBO or Showtime, Viacom wants Suddenlink to pay a monthly subscriber fee for Epix, whether the MSO's customers elect to buy the movie service or not.
The expiring contract covers such top networks as Nickelodeon, MTV, TV Land, Comedy Central, Spike TV, VH1 and CMT, as well as these other Viacom properties: Logo, Palladia HD, Nick Jr., TeenNick, NickToons, Nick2, MTV Hits, MTV2, MTV Jams, Tr3s, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul, and CMT Pure Country.
Suddenlink's message, which mentions that Viacom has deployed scare tactics in the past threatening the removal of key programming with other cable operators, says that in "the unusual event these negotiations are unsuccessful and Viacom removes its channels, we reiterate our pledge to reduce customer prices by the cost of the affected channels for whatever length of time they are unavailable."