Sunday, March 07, 2004

Caught in the crossfire

Our living room has become a battleground.

We're caught in the crossfire of a pissing match between Dish Network and Viacom. I hadn't really known about this war until a few days ago, when semi-subliminal messages began appearing on my screen when I was watching VH1, MTV or Comedy Central.

In near-invisible type, a crawl comes across the screen every now and again which reads something like "Dish Network customers - if you want to keep the following channels: MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon - you must call Dish Network and ask them to keep these channels."

Then today the wife was watching Comedy Central and saw the same crawl, except the parts that listed the channels were blacked out in an Iran/Contra-type redaction.

This, I suppose, was Dish Network striking back at Viacom for inserting the original message into their Dish Network feeds.

So I news Googled dish network viacom and got the straight poop. Turns out Viacom is trying to force Dish Network to carry each and every one of its channels or none at all.

Dish Network won an injunction keeping Viacom from pulling their channels, but that injunction runs out at midnight tonight. Thus the semi-subliminal lobbying by Viacom and counter-strike blackout from Dish Network.

I guess we'll see what happens tonight at midnight. Chances are the Viacom stations will go dark.

For the record, I'm with Dish Network here. If they caved to Viacom and agreed to carry (and pay for ... which means they'll charge me for) each of Viacom's channels - each at a much higher rate than before - then they are setting a precedent of bending over for the big content players and setting themselves and their customers up for higher prices for channels we may not even want.

At the core of the issue, apparently, is that Viacom wants Dish Network to carry the new Nick GAS channel, and said if they don't carry it, they can't carry CBS, either.

Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said, in effect, f*ck off. And I second that.

In the short term, we may have to give up Nick and Jessica, Carmen and Dave, The Osbornes, The Daily Show and Best Week Ever, but I think that's a sacrifice worth making; a stand worth taking.

Stay tuned (but maybe not to Viacom) ...

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