Viacom Blocks Online Access to CableOne Subs

Viacom has turned up the heat in its carriage dispute with Cable One, blocking its website content from the operators' subscribers in apparent retaliation for the operator’s decision to not carry its networks.

Cable One dropped 15 Viacom networks on April 1, including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and Spike, over what it claimed were unreasonable fee increases. The Phoenix-based operator, which has about 730,000 customers in 19 states, replaced the Viacom channels with BBC America, Sprout, The Blaze, Hallmark Channel, National Geographic, Investigation Discovery, TV One and SundanceTV.

While Viacom did not offer specifics, Cable One broadband customers are basically blocked from accessing free content on Viacom websites that are available to all other broadband subscribers. According to some people familiar with the companies, Cable One subscribers could be harder hit because there are few broadband alternatives in its markets – only a small portion of its footprint is overlapped by AT&T U-Verse and Mediacom.

“Cable One has chosen to no longer carry Viacom programming and, as a result, it is no longer available to Cable One customers in any form,” Viacom said in a brief statement.

Cable One declined to comment.

The tactic is not a new one for Viacom or other programmers. CBS did the same in its August blackout of Time Warner Cable systems in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. And in 2012, Viacom blocked access to its online content to DirecTV customers during a nine-day carriage standoff between the two companies.

CableOne has taken an aggressive stance in recent carriage negotiations. In October it dropped Turner Broadcast Systems channels over what it believed were exorbitant rate increase demands after about three weeks.