UPDATE, 11:36 AM: Cablevision’s returning fire following Dauman’s comments today. “The tactics employed by Viacom are illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong, and force Cablevision’s customers to take and pay for more than a dozen channels they don’t want in order to receive the Viacom channels they want,” the cable company says. “Viacom’s abuse of its market power prevents Cablevision from delivering more programming choice, particularly among networks that compete with Viacom’s less popular channels.”
PREVIOUS, 10:14 AM: The Viacom chief just provided his company’s most vigorous response so far to Cablevision’s suit last week charging that the programmer violates antitrust laws by pricing channels so it’s uneconomical to buy them individually. “You won’t be surprised to hear me say that the lawsuit Cablevision filed was ill-advised and frivolous,” Philippe Dauman told the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom conference. Two months ago Viacom negotiated a new multi-year carriage deal with Cablevision. “We lowered the price from the ask, and offered additional terms related to TV Everywhere to help drive its business,” Dauman says. “We even gave them more term…On this deal they said they don’t like, they wanted a longer term.” And Cablevision ended up carrying the same networks it previously picked up. “I guess their theory would be – ‘We got the discount, we got three suits for the price of two. Now we just want one suit for the same price.'” Dauman also took some shots at two other companies controlled by the family of Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan: Madison Square Garden Co (which owns MSG and other regional sports channels) and AMC Networks. Eleven of Viacom’s networks “have higher ratings than MSG including TeenNick, and Nick Jr has vastly higher ratings….But the MSG family charges a lot more than all of our networks combined.” And AMC, he says, “presumably provides a discount” for pay TV distributors to carry IFC, Sundance, and WETv. “The bottom line is, I guess the lawyers will get rich on this,” Dauman says. The money would be “better spent providing better service for Cablevision customers.”
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