NuLink-Vicom contract dispute continues

by Clay Neely -

There was concern that NuLink customers could see their channels from Viacom go dark this week unless both parties reached an agreement on the fees it pays the media giant for its content. The good news for NuLink customers is that while negotiations continue with Viacom, their channels are still up and running at present.

The National Cable Television Cooperative – which represents NuLink along with more than 800 primarily rural cable operators and negotiates programming deals on their behalf – said Viacom wants to dramatically increase the fees to carry its channels to prices that are 40 times greater than the rate of inflation.

“Contrary to what Viacom has been communicating around the country, we have actively been involved in good faith negotiations for the right to continue carrying their channels,” said Scott Werner, director of marketing for NuLink. Werner remains hopeful that a fair resolution can be worked out.

“Even if we are forced to remove their channels, the discussions with them will go on in hopes of working out a new deal and returning the channels to our lineup,” Werner said.

According to CBS News, Viacom, the parent of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, is asking for increases that are significantly higher than what larger companies, which can spread their costs over more customers, have been asked to pay, NCTC chief executive Richard Fickle said in an interview.

“For some customers, they would wind up with a 50 to 75 percent increase in their bills over a couple years period," he told CBS, arguing that the fee increases aren't justified given the declining ratings of Viacom's channels. Added Matt Polka of the American Cable Association, a group allied with NCTA: "It's unsustainable."

In 2012, Viacom channels went dark on DirecTV for 10 days.

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