Dish’s Viacom Channels Still Alive as Talks Stretch Past Deadline

Dish customers wake up to channels like Comedy Central and MTV still working after warnings they could disappear late last night

A Dish satellite
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Viacom and Dish are continuing to negotiate a deal to keep the programmer’s networks live for the satellite company’s pay-TV Thursday morning, despite a deadline that passed hours earlier.

Viacom began warning Dish customers Tuesday that they could lose its channels. Talks between the two companies broke down this week, and they faced a deadline to reach new terms by late Wednesday night or channels could go black.

But the companies are still negotiating this morning, Viacom said Thursday. Its channels — which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, BET, Spike, TV Land and CMT — were still live for Dish customers.

Dish didn’t respond to TheWrap’s message seeking comment on the status of talks.

The companies are dueling over carriage fees, the payments that a distributor like Dish makes to a programmer like Viacom so subscribers can watch its channels.

Distributors and programmers must hash out new terms for these fees whenever current agreements are set to expire, typically every few years. If they can’t reach a deal after their agreement lapses, channels are at risk of “going dark” for the pay-TV provider’s customers. The dropped channels most often are temporary, and customer response sometimes adds urgency for one of the sides to budge.

But the channels could be dropped permanently. Wednesday, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said his company was prepared to follow in the footsteps of other, smaller pay-TV providers like Suddenlink that have abandoned Viacom networks.