Dish Drops Viacom Channels

EchoStar Communications Corp. and Viacom Inc. failed to come to terms on a new carriage agreement Monday night. As of midnight, EchoStar said it would drop 16 CBS stations and 10 Viacom cable networks from its Dish Network direct-broadcast satellite service.

Dish had been carrying the channels under a temporary restraining order since Jan. 7. That order expired at midnight, Pacific time, March 8. 

Echostar has sued Viacom, arguing that tying carriage of CBS stations to networks "with little or no measurable appeal to viewers" raises antitrust issues" because it is "leveraging its control of the public airwaves."

"Dish Network customers in the cities with CBS owned-and-operated stations are entitled to keep up with local news and events distributed over publicly owned airwaves, and Viacom is interfering with that right," said EchoStar Chairman Charles Ergen. "Dish Network will always have a place for CBS and we're willing to pay for retransmission rights, but Viacom is holding the public airwaves hostage, trying to extract concessions and higher rates on programming unrelated to CBS."  EchoStar said Viacom wanted increases of up to 40% and carriage of "low-interest" neworks that would edge out broader-appeal, independent networks.

EchoStar will provide subscribers who lose a CBS signal a $1 dollar monthly rebate. The affected cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Wis., Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City

The cable channels being pulled are BET, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, MTV Espanol, Nickelodeon, Nick Games & Sports, Noggin, VH1, VH1 Classic and CBS-HD East and West. Subscribers to any or all of those channels will also get a $1 rebate per month.

EchoStar said it would continue to negotiate.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.