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Viacom’s recent moves to punish one of its service partners has caught the attention of federal regulators.
Back in April Viacom decided to yank all its cable channels (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc.) from TV service provider Cable One after contract renewal negotiations failed. Viacom wanted higher carriage fees (the amount a cable provider spends to include a channel within its lineup) and was willing to hold out until Cable One was more agreeable. Viacom took things a step further by also blocking access to TV content that’s available through the official websites of some of its most popular shows.
That means Cable One’s 730,000 paying subscribers in 12 states can’t go online to watch old episodes of The Daily Show either; and neither can anyone else. While it seems unfair to punish non-cable TV subscribers, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to how TV programmers distribute content.
But in a hearing this week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed concern over Viacom’s actions, saying that the situation with Cable One is something “we should all worry about.”
Should this kind of thing spring up more often — and it likely will, given the last year of carriage disputes from Viacom alone — consumers will be the ones suffering the most, which is something Wheeler seems to understand. However, it looks unlikely that the FCC will take action anytime soon. The commission first has to hammer out a set of enforceable rules for its new “fast lane” open Internet policy.
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