Dolan Weighs In on Cablevision Lawsuit

Suit accuses Viacom of forcing cabler to carry 14 secondary nets

James Dolan

Cablevision CEO James Dolan drew a sharp line between retail bundling of networks – what his company does – and the wholesale bundling the cabler is suing Viacom for in federal court in Manhattan.

“I think you need to differentiate between wholesale and retail bundling, (which) has been going on for quite some time. Charles Dolan is one of the first to really do it and it was designed to give…customers more product for a lower price,” he said Thursday referring to the chairman and founder of the family-owned company.

Dolan was responding to questions about the lawsuit filed Tuesday during a call to discuss quarterly earnings where escalating programming costs as well as Hurricane Sandy took a toll last quarter.

The suit accuses Viacom of unlawfully forcing Cablevision to carry 14 secondary networks like Palladia and MTV Hits if it wants must-have nets MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

It’s “forcing product into retailers, taking up shelf space and stopping the retailer’s ability to add other products and forcing the retailer to push the price up,” he said.

When pressed on the timing on the suit, which comes several months after Cablevision and Viacom renewed a carriage deal, and was filed as the company finds its margins under pressure, Dolan said “I don’t think I am going to try this case right now during the fourth quarter call. I’ll leave it there.”

When asked about a charged carriage dispute last year between Dish and former Cablevision subsid AMC Networks, Dolan seemed to dismiss similarities between the Viacom and AMC position because of their disparate size.

Dish had complained that the programmer was pushing three lower-rated networks — IFC, WE and Sundance — along with popular AMC. They settled.

“How many of those were there?” Dolan said.