Dish to Keep Viacom Channels in Multiyear Deal

Contract renewal means that Dish keeps Viacom networks and some new content will join the Sling Internet TV service

Charlie Ergen of Dish and Philippe Dauman of Viacom
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Dish will continue to provide Viacom channels to its pay-TV customers for several years, after the two companies reached a deal over fees Thursday.

They didn’t disclose financial terms. After talks broke down earlier this week, Viacom said that the satellite provider was making “impossible” demands, while Dish claimed that Viacom was asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in increases despite lower viewership and the fact that free content is more widely available now.

But announcing an accord Thursday, top executives at each company offered chummy praise of the other.

“We appreciate Viacom’s willingness to continue with us on our journey as we work to deliver the best, most innovative television services available,” Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said in a statement.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said, “Dish has historically been and remains an important partner.”

The multiyear renewal means Dish’s pay-TV customers will have no interruption in their access to Viacom channels, which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Spike, BET, CMT, TV Land, Nick Jr. and Nicktoons.

In a new measure, some Viacom live television and on-demand content will join Dish’s Sling TV, an Internet-based television service that offers no-commitment, “skinny” bundles of channels starting at $20 a month.

The two companies were fighting over carriage fees, which are payments that a distributor like Dish makes to a programmer like Viacom so that subscribers can watch those channels.

It’s routine for providers and content companies to hash out new terms for these deals whenever current agreements are due to expire. Sometimes, if talks are strained and the companies don’t reach a compromise by the time a current agreement runs out, channels “go dark” for the pay-TV provider’s customers.

These blackouts are typically short-lived, used as a tactic by one side to spur the other to make a deal. But sometimes, such as the case of small cable provider Suddenlink, the distributor simply drops networks like Viacom’s.

A permanent schism between Dish and Viacom would have been the most significant divorce of its kind. Never before has a pay-TV company as large as Dish or a programmer as large as Viacom walked away from the other.