Cable operators, DirecTV rally support for Cablevision's battle with Viacom

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Several cable operators and DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) issued statements in support of the antitrust suit Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) filed against Viacom (NYSE: VIA) in a federal court on Tuesday.

"There's no question that the current all-or-nothing system dictated by programmers is completely broken," DirecTV said in a prepared statement. Cablevision alleged in its suit that Viacom violates antitrust law with its practice of requiring pay TV distributors to carry ancillary networks such as Palladia and VH1 Classic if they want to offer subscribers more popular networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

While Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) issued a statement in support of Cablevision, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), which is one of the biggest owners of cable networks through its NBCUniversal subsidiary, stayed on the sidelines.

Mediacom Communications, a mid-sized cable operator that has complained for years about the rising costs of cable programming, rallied behind Cablevision. "The programmers' practice of tying carriage of weak networks to the grant of licenses to carry popular networks has caused cable and satellite prices to rise at a pace that far exceeds inflation," Mediacom said in a statement.

Cablevision even garnered support from the Parents Television Council, an advocacy group that in the past has criticized the cable industry. "We are overjoyed at today's announcement that Cablevision is seeking the relief that consumers and especially families have long been waiting for. In a free marketplace, consumers not the programmers would be able to decide for themselves which cable networks they want to purchase," PTC President Tim Winter said in a prepared statement.

Viacom dismissed Cablevision's allegations and said in a statement that it will "vigorously defend this transparent attempt by Cablevision to use the courts to renegotiate our existing two month old agreement."

For more:
- see the Mediacom statement
- see the PTC statement
The Los Angeles Times has this story

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