Viacom Blackout on Small Cable Distributors to End

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A day after the deadline, with many of the 850 cable services being forced to black out MTV, Nickelodeon and other channels, the two sides are poised to announce a deal.

In what may be one of the shortest blackouts due to a retransmission consent dispute, Viacom is expected to announce as soon as late Tuesday that it has reached a new contract with the National Cable Television Cooperative -- which represents about 850 small cable services nationwide.

At 12:01 p.m. ET Tuesday, Viacom had pulled 14 of its channels from those cable services, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Spike and TV Land. Some Twitter accounts stated that not all of the cable distributors were blacked out as of early morning Tuesday.

They were taken down in many markets despite a last-minute plea NCTC CEO Rich Fickle made in a letter sent March 31 to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman that said a blackout would impact 5.2 million subscribers in small towns and rural communities.

There was no official confirmation from Viacom or the NCTC that a deal had been reached but a knowledgeable source said Tuesday afternoon it was just a matter of finalizing paperwork as all of the outstanding issues had been resolved.

There have been many retransmission disputes over the past year that have dragged out for weeks, even months. Retransmission is the money paid by cable operators to TV channels or content providers for the right to retransmit to paying customers. Many of these are settled without a blackout. This is one of the shortest where some channels have gone dark.