Word is that negotiations are still moving slowly. And that could mean Viacom’s in for a lot of pain based on Nielsen data from the first week in which its 17 channels were dark on DirecTV. The black out began on July 11, which means that Viacom networks didn’t have DirecTV’s 20M subscribers for five days in the week that ended July 15. During that week, there was a 27% drop in the total day live viewing for the target audiences of Viacom’s networks compared with the same period last year, according to a compilation of ratings data by Barclays Capital. The previous week the networks collectively were -14%. Those with the steepest year-over-year drops were Nick at Nite (-48.1%), Nickelodeon (-45.0%), VH1 Classic (-35.3%), Nick Toons (-34.8%), and CMT (-32.0%). Viacom’s more resilient channels were VH1 (-1.3%), Teen Nick (-2.5%), Comedy Central (-5.5%), BET (-13.0%), and TVLand (-18.1%).
The impact on DirecTV is hard to determine until it releases new subscription data. But its rivals smell blood. Comcast, Cablevision, and Dish Network are advertising for DirecTV subs to switch so they can continue to watch Viacom’s channels, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield reports. While he doesn’t expect a lot of customers to jump just yet, “it will be very challenging [for DirecTV] to sign-up new subs with so many channels missing,” he says. And the impact on DirecTV could be long-lasting because customers will be “far harder to recapture given DirecTV’s lack of a broadband offering.”
How long will the fight last? Even the experts disagree. Barclays’ Anthony DiClements says that “a near-term resolution to the conflict is likely, given the value of Viacom’s programming, and the sheer number of networks at stake for [DirecTV] subscribers.” But Cowen and Co analyst Doug Creutz says he’s “concerned that the DirecTV carriage fight could persist for an extended period of time” — resulting in as much as 40% in lost earnings for Viacom “across the length of the blackout.”