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Cablevision Sues Viacom Over Channel Package Deal

Cablevision Systems has taken legal aim at channel package deals.

The cable operator has filed an antitrust suit against Viacom in a Manhattan federal court for what it says is the programmers illegal forcing of the cable operators to carry 14 "lesser-watched" channels.

Viacom countered that Cablevision was just trying to renegotiate a two-month-old contract via the courts.

Cablevision says that its customers do not want networks such as Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic, but that it is forced to carry them in order to secure must-have nets like Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Cablevision wants a December 2012 carriage deal voided, "a permanent injunction barring Viacom from conditioning carriage of any or all of its Core networks on Cablevision's licensing any or all of Viacom's ancillary networks," as well as treble damages and legal fees.

"Viacom's conduct harms Cablevision and its customers, and impairs competition by making Cablevision pay for and carry networks that many subscribers do not want to watch, while other networks are excluded from distribution, preventing Cablevision from being able to differentiate its services and harming subscribers," Cablevision said in filing the suit.

Cablevision identifies the "core" networks as MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, VH1, Spike, TV Land, Comedy Central, and BET.

Viacom defended the policy, suggesting they were helping out cable operators and other distributors. "At the request of distributors, Viacom and other programmers have long offered discounts to those who agree to provide additional network distribution," the company said in a statement. "Many distributors take advantage of these win-win and pro-consumer arrangements. Reflecting the highly competitive cable programming business, these arrangements have been upheld by a number of federal courts and on appeal. Viacom will vigorously defend this transparent attempt by Cablevision to use the courts to renegotiate our existing two month old agreement."