Dish CEO: ‘We Are Prepared’ to Drop Viacom Permanently

Charlie Ergen says the satellite provider will follow other pay-TV companies that have dropped Viacom channels

Charlie Ergen Dish Network
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Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said his company was prepared to drop Viacom channels permanently if the satellite provider can’t reach a deal on fees with the programmer.

“We’re prepared to move on as Suddenlink and others have done without the content,” he said, speaking on a call with analysts to discuss quarterly results.

Pay-TV companies Suddenlink and Cable One have both opted to cease carrying Viacom channels, which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV.

The companies that have removed Viacom from their line-ups “have done just fine,” Ergen said. He added that Dish is interested in reaching a deal, however.

Viacom has said in a statement about the fight that Dish “has not engaged in a serious way” in talks to renew a deal. It added that it granted Dish multiple extensions and offered “best in class” terms, but the satellite provider made “impossible” demands. Viacom claimed the satellite provider showed a disregard for Dish customers and would drive them to competitors.

The two companies are battling over carriage fees, the payments that a distributor like Dish makes to a programmer like Viacom so its subscribers can watch those channels. Distributors and programmers routinely hash out new terms for these deals whenever current agreements are due to expire.

But sometimes when they can’t find a middle ground, channels “go dark” for the pay-TV provider’s customers until they reach a new deal — or stay missing permanently if the two camps decide to walk away.

On Tuesday, Viacom began warning Dish customers that they could lose its channels as soon as Wednesday night because of a breakdown in talks with the satellite provider. Viacom’s networks include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, BET, Spike, TV Land and CMT.

Earlier Wednesday, Dish Network reported it had lost 23,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first three months of the year, but its profit was better than expected nevertheless.