Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman Slams Cablevision's Lawsuit as 'Frivolous'

DOWN: Phillippe Dauman

The Viacom CEO's cable networks, including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central, tumble in the ratings after the company yanks them from DirecTV in an especially nasty carriage-fee dispute.

The exec says Cablevision would be better off saving tens of millions of dollars on lawyers and instead spending it on making cable customers happy.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman addressed the recent antitrust lawsuit filed by Cablevision that accuses his company of illegally tying together bigger Viacom-owned networks such as Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV with lesser ones, including Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic.

Dauman slammed Cablevision on Monday at the Deutsche Bank 2013 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla.

"The lawsuit that Cablevision filed is ill-advised and frivolous," he said.

Viacom's chief said the multiyear agreement was negotiated just two months ago and that Viacom had made a number of concessions. "We lowered the price from the ask," he said. "We offered a lot of additional terms relating to TV Everywhere that were consumer-friendly. We even gave them more term."

STORY: Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman's Annual Compensation Falls to $33.5 Million

Dauman said Cablevision got a discount for taking its networks.

"I guess their theory is: 'We got the discount. We got three suits for the price of two. Now we want just the two,'" he said. "That doesn't happen in our business."

He also attacked Cablevision's own programming assets.

"In fact, 11 of our networks have higher ratings than MSG Network on a year-round basis," Dauman said. "That includes Teen Nick that they are complaining about. Nick Jr. has vastly higher ratings. It's common practice for a family of networks to provide a discount if you carry their networks. … Presumably, MSG offers discount to (distributors to) carry MSG2, MSG+, Fuse. The bottom line is that lawyers will get rich on this. The tens of millions of dollars spent would be better spent providing value to Cablevision customers."

Dauman also took a broad look at the financial health of the cable and satellite distributors with whom Viacom is frequently negotiating.

"The distributors' stocks are doing well," he said. "Over the last several years, when we have had economic issues, there have been market-share shifts, but it has held pretty steady."

Dauman also spoke about each of his networks. Responding to a question about how MTV is doing post-Jersey Shore, he said that the network is "in a good place," with "much better balance." He singled out the performance of Teen Mom 2, Awkward, Catfish and Buckwild,  saying that the fruits of a commitment to original programming will be made clear when the network presents itself at upfronts next month.

Viacom's chief executive also said he wants to see Paramount get more involved in helping its TV networks. He said the studio would “get back, with very little investment, into the television-production business.”