Dish Network's Charlie Ergen on Potential Viacom Blackout: "If They Go Dark, They Go Dark"

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Charlie Ergen

All that said, the negotiations continue and there is hope that Dish continues to carry Viacom beyond midnight tonight.

Dish Network's Charlie Ergen warned Wednesday that if Viacom channels go off the air at midnight tonight, it would likely represent a permanent ban of the conglomerate's cable networks at the satellite TV provider.

"Our intent is, if they go dark, they go dark," Ergen said during Dish's conference call to discuss earnings on Wednesday.

Ergen said that Viacom — and every other content provider — needs to understand that when it makes their content available at streaming services like Hulu and Amazon.com, it cheapens the value of the content. Viacom, he said, isn't acknowledging that concept.

"I'd rather spend my time with companies that are a little bit more forward thinking," he said.

All that said, the negotiations continue and there is hope that Dish continues to carry Viacom beyond midnight tonight.

"Last week, I didn't see a path with Viacom. The tone on both sides, both Viacom and Dish, has been more productive this weekend and this week," he said. "There actually, probably is a path to continue carriage, but it's not done yet."

Dish's deal with Viacom would have ended a few months ago, but the two temporarily extended an agreement that now ends in a matter of hours. Viacom has left other carriers recently, most notably Suddenlink, and several times Ergen invoked that particular cable company.

"They're the ones who sent us the termination notice," Ergen said of Viacom.

"At midnight tonight our programming deal will expire, which means, absent of a new agreement, we'd take down their channels," he said.  "It's no coincidence that our conference call is today, because, to the extent we don't reach an agreement, we're prepared to move on as Suddenlink and others have done."

Seven years ago, Viacom's content was more popular on Dish than it is today, Ergen said, and part of that is because it's also available over the Internet nowadays.

"We try to protect our customers from two things: 1) a needless increase and 2) paying for product they're viewing at other places," he said.

"In general, content is more widely available, and therefore the value to us and our cost is generally down," he said.

Viacom's channels include BET, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, TV Land and Nickelodeon.

"One of two things will happen at midnight tonight," Ergen continued, "their program will be up or their program will be down. We're not mad at em if they come down ... their content is good content, it's just that we couldn't get to an agreement."

After Ergen's remarks, Viacom issued the following statement:

“Consumers have spoken loudly and clearly. Over the past 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of concerned subscribers have reached out to implore Dish to negotiate reasonable terms with Viacom for continued carriage of our networks.

"Based on year-to-date Nielsen data, our networks represent nearly one fifth of cable viewership on Dish, which gives Dish enormous incentive to renew our agreement. As a long-standing partner, we are hopeful that we can work together to reach a deal.”

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