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DirecTV Offers All Subs Sprout, Hub, TV One And Fuse As Viacom Blackout Drags On

As its carriage dispute with Viacom entered a sixth day, DirecTV expanded access to PBS Kids Sprout, Discovery Communications' The Hub, TV One and Madison Square Garden's Fuse to all subscribers.

The four standard-definition networks are ordinarily available in higher-level packages, DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said. On Saturday, DirecTV added Disney Junior to its basic lineup.

DirecTV's 19.9 million U.S. subscribers lost access to 17 Viacom networks and HD simulcasts at midnight July 10, after the two companies were unable to reach an agreement on carriage fees.

The two sides are in negotiations. DirecTV said in an update Sunday that "we are continuing to make progress in our discussions with Viacom."

During the standoff, DirecTV also is offering Starz Entertainment's eight Encore networks for no extra charge to subscribers through July 31. A Starz spokesman confirmed that DirecTV is authorized to provide the Encore nets, available at channels 535 to 542, for the remainder of the month.

In addition, the satellite operator noted, it is providing a freeview of MLB Extra Innings and MLB Network Strike Zone through July 19.

Viacom said the increase it is asking for from DirecTV amounts to only "a couple pennies" per subscriber per day -- although that would mean it is asking DirecTV to pay at least $145 million more per year. The satellite operator claimed that Viacom is asking for a 30% rate increase, amounting to $1 billion over the term of the agreement.

Last Wednesday Viacom disabled access to dozens of free full-length episodes on its websites -- from shows including Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and MTV's Jersey Shore -- citing DirecTV's efforts to direct customers to online alternatives for watching the programmer's shows.