Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Dark channels

Well, the Viacom channels on Dish Network went dark at midnight last night (turns out the deadline was midnight Tuesday). Now, instead of Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, BET, etc., we get a message directing us to channel 101, where they're playing a recorded message from Charlie Ergen over and over.

I'm still supporting Dish in this mess, but it's frustrating to not have good information about the dispute, what terms Viacom wants and what Dish's expectations are. There's not enough good reporting on the issue out there, so all we see is the propaganda from both sides.

I saw a bit saying Viacom wants six cents per month per subscriber for all of its channels, but I have no idea if that's accurate. Dish says Viacom wants to raise per-sub rates 40% over the life of a new contract, but without the details, that means little.

In the meantime, Dish is crediting its subscribers $1 per month for not having the Viacom channels. MTV, Comedy Central and VH1 probably make up 30% of our viewing time, so that's little consolation for me.

And here's a note to the media: If you don't know the facts, don't write the story. This morning, most pieces about this dispute say the Viacom blackouts are only happening in markets where Viacom owns the local CBS affiliate, with about 1.6 million subscribers affected. Sorry, that's wrong. In markets where Viacom owns the CBS affiliate, CBS is off the air, along with all the Viacom cable channels. In markets where Viacom does not own the CBS affiliate, CBS is still on the air, but all of the Viacom cable channels are blacked out.

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