Viacom, engaged in a contract dispute with Suddenlink Communications, is preventing the midsize cable operator’s broadband customers from accessing its online properties — a tactic the programmer has used in past carriage fights.
As of midnight Tuesday, Suddenlink’s TV subscribers no longer had access to Viacom’s cable nets, including MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, after the parties were unable to reach terms on a new agreement.
Viacom subsequently blocked access for Suddenlink’s Internet customers to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (pictured above), as well as episodes on MTV.com, Nick.com, CC.com and VH1.com. The blockade affects all of the MSO’s broadband customers, including those who don’t subscribe to TV service.
Similarly, in 2012, Viacom pulled dozens of free, full-length eps from its websites during a carriage battle with DirecTV, a move that affected all Internet users. Other programmers have done the same thing: During the war between CBS and Time Warner Cable last year, the Eye retaliated by blocking all TW Cable broadband customers from accessing full episodes of shows on CBS.com and mobile apps.
In a message on its website dedicated to the standoff, Suddenlink said that Viacom was preventing broadband subs from accessing shows on its websites. “In doing this, Viacom is violating the principles of an open Internet. If you agree, please consider contacting the FCC,” the cable company said.
Asked for a response, Viacom said: “Suddenlink abruptly decided to end our relationship, which has resulted in the continued interruption of Viacom programming across platforms, including online, through Suddenlink.”
Suddenlink noted that Viacom’s shows “may be available through YouTube, Hulu, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Amazon Prime, iTunes or other Internet sources.”
Meanwhile, Viacom said that its content is available “through hundreds of partners, including cable, satellite and many online destinations. Customers of these partners receive robust access to our programming, through a variety of audience-friendly distribution agreements that can include television, online and VOD offerings.”
Viacom’s move, as with the CBS blocking of TW Cable subs, points up the “flawed” logic in the FCC’s ongoing net neutrality proceedings, according to BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield. In his opinion, Internet service providers and content companies should be governed by the same rules.
“Importantly, CBS and Viacom disabled access to content for all ISP customers, even if those ISP subscribers did not take a video programming package,” he wrote in a blog post. “In essence, CBS and Viacom are taxing ISPs for content they make freely available on the web.”
Suddenlink has about 1.4 million residential and commercial customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and elsewhere.