DirecTV and Viacom dispute leaves customers high and dry

If you’re a DirecTV subscriber (as am I) you may have noticed a bunch of channels vanished from your lineup on Wednesday.

That’s due to a dispute between DirecTV and Viacom that (at least according to DirecTV) involves Viacom’s demand that DirecTV pay 30 percent more to carry the same Viacom channels—a cost of $1 billion extra—as before.

Viacom, for its part, says that during negotiations, “DirecTV dropped the channels without giving Viacom advanced warning” and that Viacom proposed a “fair deal”.

Propaganda from DirecTV...

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, with each side trying to curry favor with the public to make the other look like the bad guy. Both companies have set up websites with highly loaded names (the above links) so filled with propaganda—including hand-picked, one-sided comments from ‘customers’—that it’s hard to have sympathy for either side. Or even know what the real story is. Viacom claims DirecTV dropped 26 channels, while DirecTV says it’s only 17 channels and that Viacom is double counting SD and HD versions of some channels.

And I love how DirecTV writes that, “You should be able to decide which Viacom channels you want and which you don’t” when the company (and other cable and satellite companies) have fought tooth and nail to avoid offering any sort of a la carte options for subscribers.

..and from Viacom.

To buy time, DirecTV has added an Other Ways To Watch section to its dispute site that offers other (paid) places from which to stream individual shows, suggestions for similar shows still on DirecTV, and the names of other networks still on DirecTV with (I guess) similar content.

The latest shot, as reported by Ars Technica, is that Viacom actually pulled normally freely available streaming episodes of some shows from its own sites, including The Daily Show.

The end result is that DirecTV and Viacom are playing a game of chicken, and customers are left wondering which car will swerve first. And this isn’t the first time DirecTV has had disputes with networks. In the last year, problems with Fox Networks and Tribune Broadcasting have made headlines. Nor are these problems limited to DirecTV.

I expect the two sides will probably make a deal soon, and the blustering will vanish like so many missing channels in short order.

At least until the next contract negotiations.

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