Viacom and Charter Communications have agreed to a “short-term” extension of their carriage negotiations and will continue trying to reach a solution that will enable some 16.6 million customers to keep watching MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and many other networks.
A spokesman from Viacom issued a short statement explaining that the company “has agreed to a short-term extension of our renewal deadline with Charter while we work to reach a mutually beneficial deal.” A Charter spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The impasse follows a recent dispute between Disney and Altice, which acquired Cablevision and now operates the Optimum cable service. Those parties had clashed primarily over sports rights, whereas the issue with Charter and Viacom is the decision last spring by Charter to remove bedrock Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central from basic service on Spectrum and put them on a higher-priced tier. Along with that move, it rolled out a skinny bundle that features no sports -and no Viacom. Bob Bakish, who became Viacom CEO in 2016, has publicly admonished Charter for the moves, which comes as he sets a new overall strategic course for the company.
In the absence of a deal, Viacom has been run ads on its networks alerting customers to a potential blackout. The company, under previous leadership, took notably aggressive stances in many carriage negotiations. Former CEO Philippe Dauman drove such a hard bargain that Viacom networks disappeared for two years from Suddenlink, a St. Louis-based cable operator now owned by Altice. While Suddenlink later restored Viacom networks in a larger pact arranged by Altice, the risk of brinksmanship is considerable for Viacom. Brett Harriss, an analyst with Gabelli & Co., has estimated that Viacom could lose 16% of its overall affiliate revenue, some $760 million, if all 23 of its networks go dark.
Charter acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016 to become the No. 2 U.S. cable operator.