Time Warner Cable, Others Back DirecTV in Viacom Dispute
DirecTV (NYSE: DTV), which is currently in a program-fee dispute with Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA) (NASDAQ: VIAB), has received the support of three major cable providers, including Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC).
Viacom has been seeking a new contract with DirecTV that would raise its rates by as much as 30 percent. DirecTV fought against the increase, leading to the removal of 26 Viacom networks -- including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central -- from the satellite service.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Viacom ratings have been down since the company pulled its networks from DirecTV. Nickelodeon may have experienced the steepest decline, as its ratings fell 20 percent. Some customers have left DirecTV, but the company insists that the subscriber loss has been "very low."
Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) have not spoken out on the matter, though The Wall Street Journal notes that the latter firm is currently promoting its summer sale with a picture of SpongeBob SquarePants, Nickelodeon's flagship cartoon character.
But Time Warner Cable, Mediacom Communications and Cox Communications are publicly defending DirecTV's stance on higher program fees.
Mediacom's Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs Tom Larsen told The Wall Street Journal that the company is, "past the days of trying to take advantage of somebody else's shutdown to get a short-term gain in subscribers."
"The reality is that if we don't fix this long-term problem in the industry, we're all going to suffer," he said.
This week, Time Warner Cable released an official statement to address the rise of program fees.
"Like the millions of consumers affected by it directly, we deplore that programmers have once again pulled the plug on television viewers, this time with DirecTV, Dish Networks and Time Warner Cable," Time Warner Cable wrote in its statement. "Consumers are tired of these disputes and so are we -- television networks can't continue to demand huge price increases and expect us to silently pass those cost increases on to our customers. We will continue to stand up for consumers against programmers' outrageously large price increases that serve no purpose other than to line network pockets at our customers' expense."
Time Warner Cable is currently embroiled in its own program-fee dispute with Hearst Corp., which pulled a number of stations in certain markets after failing to get a 300 percent increase in compensation.
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