Viacom and AT&T in standoff that could leave 24 million TV viewers blacked out
Viacom Inc. and AT&T Inc. were continuing negotiations to avert a programming blackout that would leave more than 24 million pay-TV customers without channels like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, after their earlier contract expired at midnight Friday.
The negotiations are over carriage of Viacom’s VIA, -1.66% networks on AT&T’s T, +0.03% DirecTV, U-verse and WatchTV services. As of Sunday, Viacom’s channels were still on the air as the parties continued to talk.
Such programming-carriage disputes happen periodically in cable and satellite TV and sometimes are resolved quickly. The fights are intensifying as cable-TV cord-cutting picks up momentum, pressuring pay-TV providers to cut their spending on content and prune the number of networks they offer.
If the standoff leads to a blackout, it would deal a significant blow to Viacom at a moment when the media company is working to regain the ground it lost over several years of ratings declines at many of its cable channels and turmoil in its upper ranks. AT&T, meanwhile, risks alienating customers who will have to go without shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” and Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare.” AT&T’s DirecTV is already hemorrhaging subscribers, losing 1.2 million satellite-TV customers in 2018.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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