Cablevision $1 Billion Viacom Penalty: Corporations Fight, Customers Lose

Cablevision has plenty to complain about –– declining subscribers, FCC regulations, NBC's ratings woes –– but this week the cable provider has decided to focus its anger on an alleged $1 billion threat during recent negotiations with media giant Viacom, which owns most of the most popular cable networks.

On Thursday Cablevision released a copy of the lawsuit it filed against Viacom last week, alleging gross abuses during the negotiations. The biggest abuse seems to have been Viacom telling Cablevision it is not allowed to buy access only to the most popular channels, leaving less popular channels off its service.

But apparently Viacom did offer Cablevision the chance to buy only the popular channels, but for way more money than all of the channels combined would cost.

The $1 billion threat, in the additional cost of not carrying cheaper channels, is under dispute, as would be expected, by Viacom. It released a statement following Cablevision's hoopla, calling the $1 billion figure “inflated, irrelevant number manufactured to create artificial sticker shock.”

The lawsuit the Cablevision filed last week, and is now enjoying telling everyone about, is an attempt at compensation for the harm caused by what Cablevision alleges were antitrust violations, pushing the poor cable provider around and making it buy things it didn't want to buy.

The negotiations took place at the end of 2012 and got pretty heated. The two signed a last-minute deal on New Year's Eve.

That was just the latest in increasingly high-pressure battles between television producers and providers. An argument between Dish Network and AMC Networks led to a TV blackout on certain channels, during the seasons of a few very popular TV shows, in which each side pointed fingers at the other, and the biggest losers were the customers.

The pressure is understandable, as each side is rapidly losing its foothold in the golden land of entertainment distribution, and meanwhile, more and more customers turn to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, which are even starting to produce their own content.

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