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The landscape of television is an interesting and convoluted business. If all goes well, media companies and distributors should cooperate with one another, and audiences never know what’s going on behind the scenes. However, sometimes two (or more) institutions come into conflict, and we as members of the TV viewing community can suffer as a result. It now seems that Viacom and Dish Network could soon go to war over the fees imposed by a channel such as Comedy Central, and the situation is no laughing matter.
It seems that there’s quite a bit of trouble brewing between Viacom and Dish. The two companies currently find themselves in a feud over the fees called for by Viacom for channels like Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central. Although the two major companies have continually negotiated to try and come to a sensible arrangement, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen has publicly stated that his company is prepared to drop Viacom channels if necessary and proceed without them, according to The Wrap.
Of course, when we take a look at the nitty gritty details, it appears that Viacom and Dish are engaging more in passive aggressive business practices than actual warfare. Dish has vocally stated that it has every intention of coming to a finalized deal with Viacom, but Viacom insists that Dish has not brought anything constructive to the table. According to the programming provider, Dish has refused their self-described “best in class” offers and also made demands that Viacom could not realistically meet.
If a deal cannot be reached and Dish drops Viacom channels, it wouldn’t be the first service to do so. Other pay-TV services such as Suddenlink and Cable One have similarly dropped Viacom over fee negotiations, so there's precedent for something of that nature to happen in the near future, but Dish Network is on another level in terms of nationwide popularity.
Here’s the biggest problem about this sort of aggressive negotiations: the people who lose the most are the Dish subscribers. Many Viacom channels – particularly Comedy Central – have become hot beds for some really popular shows, particularly among key demographics. As this cold war continues to rage, there’s an increasing possibility that Viacom channels on Dish could “go dark” and become unavailable for viewers, and Viacom went so far as to warn Dish subscribers of this imminent possibility. This means that Dish subscribers’ access to shows like Broad City and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is currently in jeopardy; the stakes are high here, people.
Whatever happens, Dish needs to figure this situation out quickly. Although the company posted strong earnings for this quarter, they also saw roughly 23,000 subscribers walk away from their satellite service. I’m not an economist, but an exodus of that scale never bodes well for business. If you're a Dish subscriber who enjoys Comedy Central, you may want to get your fill on the channel while you still can.