About 20 million DirecTV subscribers may wake up Wednesday with 26 fewer channels if the satellite TV provider doesn't reach a new content agreement with a major provider of television programming.
DirecTV and programming giant Viacom have been trying to strike a new deal to extend their current seven-year contract, which expired June 30. DirecTV says Viacom is demanding that the satellite TV company pull the plug on MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and many other channels if a deal isn't signed.
The subscribers affected would represent one-fifth of all satellite and cable TV viewers in the U.S.
Viacom said Monday that talks on a new distribution contract - the current one bundles channels - had reached an impasse. In a statement, Viacom said DirecTV had refused "to consider a fair deal that recognizes the value of Viacom programming."
A Viacom spokesman told Bloomberg the new contract amounts to only "a few pennies per month per subscriber."
DirecTV, however, says Viacom essentially wants more than $1 billion in additional fees, or 30 percent more, for programming that is losing viewership. DirecTV wants to be able to pick and choose the programming it wants as part of the bundling deal, saying in a statement: "We currently pay them hundreds of millions of dollars every year already, and if Viacom thinks their networks are worth a billion more, then you have to be able to select what's most important in your own living room. It's your money, so you should be able to decide."
Both companies are waging a public campaign to get viewers to pressure each side to strike a deal. Viacom is urging viewers to "call DirecTV now." Viacom warns viewers that "Viacom wants you to pay over 30% more."
The DirecTV channels affected would include Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, BET, CMT, TV Land, Comedy Central, Spike and others.
Despite the standoff, talks could continue beyond the Tuesday midnight deadline, so don't be surprised if the DirecTV channels are still around on Wednesday.
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