Viacom Negotiator Slams DirecTV Statements As 'Inaccurate and Exaggerated'

Denise Denson tells THR that Epix is not a deal breaker and that the DirecTV CEO ignored a compromise proposal at Sun Valley.

Statements by DirecTV issued Wednesday about Viacom money demands and the role the Epix pay TV channel is having on a new retransmission deal are inaccurate and exaggerated, according to Denise Denson, Viacom’s executive vp content distribution and marketing, who is handling the negotiations.

“They are doing it just to deceive their customers to hang on and not switch providers to get their channels back,” Denson told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. The executive said Viacom. owner of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV and other popular channels, has made proposals to settle with DirecTV that include Epix, as well as others that do not include Epix. Denson said some of the proposals price Epix at under the $500,000 figure cited by DirecTV in its press release.

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Denton said DirecTV is known for running movies, so it is not inappropriate that they discuss adding Epix to the channel lineup. She said, however, that Viacom negotiators have said they are willing to make a deal without including Epix, which is counter to what DirecTV is saying.

Denton said that last week during the Sun Valley conference put on by Allen & Co. that Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman presented a proposal to DirecTV CEO Mike White that would have avoided most if not all of the blackout of Viacom channels, which is now in its second week. “And then he never heard from Mike,” said Denton.

She said DirecTV sources who claim negotiations are going well are not being truthful. She said she talks to her counterpart in the negotiations representing DirecTV for about ten minutes a day, and that they appear to not really want a quick settlement. She said the talks are “completely unproductive” and currently “at an impasse.”

“They believe in the short term we are under pressure,” said Denton. “I think in the longer term, they are destroying their business.”

Denton said reports that Viacom is seeking a 30 percent increase that would boost DirecTV’s cost to carry its channels is “exaggerated.” However, she declined to say what  the correct numbers are because she does not want to provide information to other cable operators with whom she deals.

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According to Denton, Viacom’s 17 channels (some of which repeat as HD channels as well) represent 20 percent of all viewing on DirecTV; and its Nickelodeon children’s channel is the most viewed of any channel on the service. “No other programming group delivers that type of value,” said Denton. “They (DirecTV viewers) spend a lot of time on our channels.”

Denton scoffed at media reports that some cable TV competitors support DirecTV. “I think they are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” said Denton. “Of course they want DirecTV to save them from our costs.”

Denton said Viacom can and will hold out until it gets a fair deal that reflects the value of its content to DirecTV subscribers, however long that takes.

“We’re a big company,” said Denton. “We will live through these situations. I think the implications for DirecTV are far greater.”


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