Viacom, DirecTV Settle Carriage War

26 networks restored after protracted spat

Viacom has reached an agreement with DirecTV after a 10-day blackout that shut 20 million subscribers out of popular networks Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, and two dozen others. The disruption began last Monday just before midnight and continued through a protracted (if one-sided) ad war, and finally a series of negotiations that ran aground on the subject of what to do with Viacom's fledgling premium cable network, Epix.

Licenses for what used to be MSO-only content to over-the-top content providers like Netflix and Hulu, which consumers love (and MSOs do not), have also been at issue during the discussions, as well. With the new agreement, DirecTV will add a library of Viacom programming to its own digital on-demand offering, DirecTV Everywhere.

The cable service will ultimately not be required to carry Epix, though the service will be available to the satcaster as an option.

Viacom issued a brief statement saying generally it was glad the blackout was over but didn't go much further than that: "Viacom is extremely pleased to bring its programming back to DirecTV subscribers and thanks everyone affected by the disruption for their patience and understanding during this challenging period."

DirecTV, however, was less circumspect, calling its new partner "bullying," "anti-consumer," and the face-off itself "[an] unnecessary and ill-advised blackout by Viacom."

"It’s unfortunate that Viacom took the channels away from customers to try to gain leverage, but in the end, it’s clear our customers recognized that tactic for what it was," said Derek Chang, executive vice president of Content Strategy and Development for DirecTV.

It's the third carriage dispute to run simultaneously this month, and the second to be resolved in the last few hours. Hearst and Time Warner Cable settled their differences late last night; Dish Network and AMC are still fighting.

For an added dose of irony, please watch Jon Stewart making fun of both his employers and DirecTV here on the show's website, for free.