In what is shaping up as a peaceful end of 2010 at the negotiating table, Suddenlink and Viacom have scored an agreement in principle on a long-term carriage pact, covering the programmer's portfolio of services, including movie service Epix.
The parties had faced the end of their contract at midnight on Jan. 1. Deal terms were not disclosed, but the cable operator said the pact covers the Viacom networks widely available on its expanded basic level of service: MTV, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Comedy Central, Spike TV, VH1, CMT. The others are featured on optional digital services and include Logo, Palladia HD, Nick Jr., TeenNick, NickToons, Nick2, MTV Hits, MTV2, MTV Jams, Tr3s, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul, and CMT Pure Country.
The agreement in principle follows news that Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcast Group had extended their retransmission-consent negotiations until Jan. 14. Their contract, covering 33 stations, was slated to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31.
"Suddenlink issued the following statement around 8:40 p.m. (ET): "We are pleased to announce that they've reached an agreement in principle on a long-term contract. Viacom channels will continue to be carried by Suddenlink. In addition, Epix will be made available to Suddenlink customers in the next few months."
Earlier in the week, Suddenlink, despite continuing negotiations, had been advising its customers about the possibility of service disruption with Viacom, which it said was seeking a more than 20% price hike for its networks and the inclusion of Epix in all of its proposals. The MSO's correspondences indicated that many of its customers had not expressed interest in the movie service, a joint venture of Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM.
On its Web site, Suddenlink indicated that its customers would have a choice of whether they want the service:
"Suddenlink wants to thank its customers for their patience and support during these negotiations and assure them that, as a result of this agreement, there will be no changes to the recently announced rate adjustments for Suddenlink's most-popular services; the company will absorb any difference and customers will have a choice about whether or not they want Epix."