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Viacom, DISH Keep Up Rhetoric After Nets Disappear


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#1 OFFLINE   Chris Blount

Chris Blount

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Posted 10 March 2004 - 06:52 AM

After EchoStar pulled the plug early Tuesday morning on a number of Viacom networks once delivered by DISH Network, Viacom went on the offensive, addressing the programming carriage skirmish with media. EchoStar went back to DISH Network customers to explain its side of the story.

Mark Rosenthal, president and COO of Viacom's MTV Networks, said during Tuesday's conference call the company was "disturbed and disappointed" the channels went dark on DISH Network. He also said it was reprehensible that EchoStar would "treat customers with such disregard."

Rosenthal also criticized EchoStar for playing the victim role in the skirmish. "EchoStar is not a small mom and pop operator," he said. "They are the fourth largest distributor."

As for previous talks, Viacom and CBS executives said they were "extremely flexible" with EchoStar during negotiations. "We couldn't work harder to work out a deal with EchoStar," Rosenthal said. He also pointed out that Viacom has reached carriage deals with virtually all other distributors - including agreements with cable giant Comcast and satellite's DirecTV.

Rosenthal described the offer given to EchoStar for carriage of Viacom nets and CBS channels as "modest and reasonable." The deal involved less than 6 cents per subscriber per month, but executives wouldn't go into further details on the offer.

Viacom executives said they are open to receiving calls from EchoStar, but had nothing to report on the stalled negotiations as of Tuesday afternoon. EchoStar CEO Charles Ergen said later in the day that Viacom officials have been in contact with EchoStar executives: "They want to do a deal, and we want to do a deal," Ergen said.

Meanwhile, EchoStar went back to its subscribers, addressing the missing Viacom and CBS channels during a special presentation on the satellite TV service Tuesday evening.

Ergen reiterated the company's stand on the skirmish, saying Viacom wanted carriage of additional channels that appeared to have little value to the DISH Network service. Apparently, Viacom told EchoStar during the negotiations that if DISH gets CBS, "you have to get all of this stuff (extra channels) and at a higher rate," Ergen said.

Ergen also said Viacom gave EchoStar a "take it or leave it" proposition on a carriage offer, and threatened to take away CBS channels before the network's coverage of the Super Bowl if EchoStar didn't ink their deal. In addition, Ergen said Viacom wanted EchoStar to tear up its contracts for other Viacom nets - CMT, Spike TV and TV Land - and extend those deals at higher rates. Those channels remain on DISH Network.

Viacom networks affected by the programming carriage skirmish include MTV, Nickelodeon, Noggin, BET and VH1, among others.

In addition, Ergen disputed the 6-cent offer per-subscriber/per month from Viacom. "If it was really 6 cents, I would sign that contract tomorrow," he said.

http://www.skyreport.com (Used with permission)

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