Instead of a Jersey Shore rerun or Teen Mom marathon, several viewers who tuned into MTV just before midnight caught a scrolling message informing them that their beloved "music" network had been scrapped, triggering an accusatory, billion-dollar he said/she said shouting match between two media industry giants.
That cable network that used to air music videos and original music reports blacked out last night in front of about 20 million people when satellite provider DirecTV pulled the plug on Music Television and its Viacom-owned sister stations.
"Viacom, the owner of this channel, forced DirecTV to suspend it despite our many requests to keep it on," the scrolling message read. "We are working to bring it back as soon as possible without an unfair increase to your bill. Disruptions like this are brief. Go to DirecTVPromise.com for the latest info."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Viacom, which owns MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and others, is asking DirecTV for over $1 billion in carriage fees. But the satellite provider was still "working diligently on a new agreement," presumably for far less money, as of yesterday afternoon.
"Our agreement with DirecTV is seven years old -- ancient by the standards of the ever-evolving media industry -- which means that DirecTV has enjoyed way below market rates for Viacom's networks for a very long time," Viacom said in a statement on Monday night.
"If negotiations remain stalled, DirecTV will drop Viacom's channels tomorrow tonight. No Dora, no SpongeBob, no Teen Wolf, no 106 & Park, no Daily Show, no Colbert, and no Snooki -- a regrettable and avoidable turn of events if there ever was one, and an outcome that our team has worked tirelessly to avoid."
Unfortunately, it did prove unavoidable, and in a statement released shortly after midnight, Viacom broke the news that 26 of the company's channels had been dropped from DirecTV.
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We are deeply disappointed that DirecTV dropped Viacom's channels before our midnight deadline this evening, severing our connection with its nearly 20 million subscribers nationwide. We proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber, and we remained willing to negotiate that deal right up to this evening's deadline. However, DirecTV refused to engage in meaningful conversation. We are hopeful that DirecTV will work with us toward a resolution, and stop denying its subscribers access to the networks they watch most.
DirecTV, on the other hand, has set up a frequently asked questions page regarding the Viacom mess, assuring its customers that "DIRECTV had absolutely no intention of removing your favorite Viacom networks... Viacom instead suspended them to try to make you angry, turn you against DIRECTV, and then force both of us to accept over 30 percent more in fees (an extra $1 billion more than you pay today) to return everything just as it was before."
There's still no word as to if and when the issue will be resolved.