Cablevision sues Viacom over niche TV networks

Emily Steel, Financial Times


Cablevision, the US cable operator, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Viacom yesterday, contending that the media group is forcing it to carry and pay for niche networks that its customers do not watch in order to carry more popular networks.

Signalling the rising tensions between distributors and content owners, Cablevision alleged that Viacom “abused its market power over commercially critical networks” such as Nickel-odeon, MTV and Comedy Central to force it to pay for 14 less popular networks, including Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic.

Cablevision contends that Viacom “coerced Cable-vision by threatening to impose massive fines”.

“The manner in which Viacom sells its programming is illegal, anticonsumer and wrong,” Cablevision said.

“Viacom’s abuse of its market power is not only illegal, but also prevents Cablevision from delivering the programming that its customers want and that competes with Viacom’s less popular channels.”

Viacom said in a statement that, at the request of distributors, it has long offered discounts in exchange for additional distribution of its networks. It said such arrangements were common across the industry and have been upheld in court.

“Many distributors take advantage of these win-win and pro-consumer arrangements,” Viacom said.

It said it would “vigorously defend this transparent attempt by Cablevision to use the courts to re-negotiate our existing two-month-old agreement”.