Viacom Inc. and Charter Communications said they have reached “an agreement in principle” to keep the New York entertainment conglomerate’s cable networks on Charter’s Spectrum cable service, avoiding what might have escalated into a contentious fight over the nickels-and-dimes of programming costs.
“Viacom and Charter have reached an agreement in principle,” the two companies said in a joint statement. “Spectrum subscribers will continue to have access to Viacom’s networks, without disruption, while we finalize terms.”
A contract between the two parties was believed to have expired Sunday, but the two agreed to a short-term extension to keep talking going. Viacom and Charter have been bickering for months over prices for Viacom’s networks, which include Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central, and the way Charter had been positioning them. Charter in May moved Viacom-owned networks like Spike, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central to a higher-priced tier. In August, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish told investors the companies were far apart on the issue.
Terms of the new deal could not be immediately learned. One sticking point had been Viacom’s desire to pursue so-called “skinny bundles,” or narrower offerings of programming made to people who no longer wish to subscribe to the broad packages offered by cable distributors.
Viacom has been working diligently on a turnaround effort for months. Since Bakish took the company’s reins in late 2016, he has instilled new leadership at MTV, set in motion a transformation the male-focused Spike cable network into a premium channel that will relaunch as Paramount Network in a few months time, and tried to bring some of the initiatives he spearheaded as Viacom’s international chief to the broader entertainment conglomerate.
Other carriage discussions have recently spilled into public view. Walt Disney and Altice USA recently came to terms on what could have been an equally contentious negotiation about carriage of networks like ESPN, ABC and Disney Channel. Univision said Monday night that its Spanish-language network had been taken off of Verizon’s Fios service.