Signaling yet more distribution troubles for beleaguered Viacom, the programming conglomerate confirmed during its first-quarter earnings conference last week that Charter has kicked its core channels out of its basic tier.
The news came during a week in which Hulu launched its much-ballyhooed virtual pay-TV service without Viacom networks in the $40 bundle. Consequently, having MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Spike and VH1 downgraded on the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S. was a bid deal to investors, who cratered Viacom’s stock by 5.7% as of mid-day trading Friday.
According to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, the Charter downgrade only affects new customers, who have to pony up for Charter’s most premium pay-TV bundle to get their MTV.
“With respect to Charter, in particular, we are aware of the issue,” Bakish said, according to a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha. It’s worth noting, it appears to affect new subs only. It's not a broad re-tiering. I read something today that suggested it might be. But suffice it to say, this is in the context of an ongoing integration there. There is a difference of opinion on what's appropriate. We have a very strong point of view and are in conversations about it and I believe this will get resolved. And again, at a macro level, we continue to be focused on partnership with Charter and where there's other conversations going on and other MVPDs and are working to build and evolve the pay-TV ecosystem.”
Bereft of live programming draws like sports and news, Viacom has struggled to maintain carriage of its networks in the skinny bundle era. However, under Bakish, Viacom is strategically working to accentuate its more advantageous features.
For example, the company is reportedly in talks with Discovery Communications and AMC Network—which are similarly bereft of sports—to launch a new sports-free online video service that would be distributed by MVPDs.
“We do believe there are opportunities to create these skinnier bundles,” Bakish said. “And we’re in very deep conversation with one particular entity right now about exactly that. And we do believe that, as we get a breakthrough here, that will be a catalyst for more.”