Viacom CEO Says Paramount Back TV

Blasts Cablevision lawsuits, says lawyers will makes millions

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said Paramout will start to “dip its toe” in TV production as the studio plans to announce shortly a small investment in a project based on an existing film property. The studio later confirmed that the project is the “Beverly Hills Cop” reboot already set up at CBS through Sony Pictures TV.

Speaking at a Deutsche Bank media conference in Florida, Dauman didn’t elaborate but seemed pleased with the new venture, also touting Par’s upcoming releases, Nickelodeon’s turnaround and MTV’s development slate — and offering the company’s first public take on a high-profile lawsuit filed last week by Cablevision.

That suit promises a war of words in public opinion as well the courtroom as the usually circumspect Dauman said the cabler wants “three suits for the price of one.”

Cablevision claims Viacom forced it to take 14 networks it didn’t want to carry must haves Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central. The suit, filed last Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, is seen as a challenge to programmers’ practice of bundling channels together in carriage talks.

Dauman insists the New York area cabler mostly seeks to squeeze additional concessions from an affiliate deal the companies signed two months ago. The pact required “vigorous negotiation,” Dauman said, and some concessions on Viacom’s part — including lowering the original asking price, offering customer-friendly concessions like TV everywhere and extending the term of the contract.

Dauman said Viacom offered Cablevision a discount for taking all the networks and that Cablevision had carried them all under its previous deal. But, he said, they figured “We got three suits for the price of two” and wanted more, he said.

“So the bottom line is that I guess the lawyers will get rich on this,” he said. He suggested Cablevision could better spend the millions of dollars in legal feels on customer service.

Cablevision issued a statement in response to Dauman’s latest comments. “The tactics employed by Viacom are illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong, and force Cablevision’s customers to take and pay for more than a dozen channels they don’t want in order to receive the Viacom channels they want. Viacom’s abuse of its market power prevents Cablevision from delivering more programming choice, particularly among networks that compete with Viacom’s less popular channels.”

With “Beverly Hills Cop,” Sony Pictures TV initiated the project last summer after Murphy and Ryan had a meeting of the minds about focusing the series on the Axel Foley character’s son. At that time, Sony struck a licensing deal with Par, but the deal gave Par the option to sign on as a co-producer.  In a memo to staffers, Par chairman Brad Grey touted the potential of  the pilot, penned by Shawn Ryan and helmed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

“This pilot is also an example of being nimble and looking at our library with an eye toward capitalizing on an opportunity to make great content and create value by reviving a wonderful Paramount franchise,” Grey said.

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