Small Ops Gird for Viacom Carriage Battle

More than 5 million rural cable subscribers could be without their MTV and 22 other Viacom networks at midnight on April 1 if the content giant does not reach a carriage deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative.

The NCTC, which represents about 800 cable operators in mostly rural markets across the country, is still negotiating with Viacom and is hopeful they can reach a deal before the deadline. But unlike other negotiations, which were decidedly more cordial, this dispute has the potential to turn nasty.

NCTC chairman Richard Fickle in an interview Tuesday said that what makes the current negotiations unique is that it could be the first time the NCTC is faced with a significant blackout of programming. And unlike earlier carriage negotiations, when the parties worked out their differences during 30- to 60-day extensions of old deals, no such reprieve appears to be coming.

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