Suddenlink to Drop Viacom TV Networks in Dispute Over Fee

Suddenlink Communications, a cable provider with about 1.4 million residential customers, dropped Viacom Inc. channels including Nickelodeon and MTV in a dispute over fees.

Suddenlink said in a statement yesterday that New York-based Viacom is demanding an almost 50 percent increase in payments for its programming even as the audience for its main channels has declined in the last several years.

Disputes between cable operators and the networks they carry flare up when contracts to distribute popular channels like Viacom’s BET and Comedy Central come up for renewal. Pay-TV operators such as Suddenlink are trying to keep a lid on costs, while programmers like Viacom seek top dollar for their shows and movies.

Suddenlink put other channels on the air today in place of Viacom’s networks, the St. Louis-based company said on its website.

Viacom in a statement yesterday accused Suddenlink of rejecting its own proposal and said its networks attract the greatest share of viewing of any cable programmer. Viacom said it would accept for one year an offer Suddenlink made last week.

“After five months of negotiations, Suddenlink abruptly stopped negotiating with Viacom one week ago,” the company said in its statement. “We will inform Suddenlink’s customers about alternate distributors to view our programming.”

Beck, FXX

The new channels on Suddenlink include Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze and FXX from 21st Century Fox Inc., according to the company’s website.

Suddenlink is the seventh largest U.S. cable operator, serving customers in more than a dozen states.

Viacom, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, fell 1.1 percent to $76.07 at 10:25 a.m. in New York. The shares had declined 12 percent this year through yesterday.

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