Viacom Inc. is warning pay-TV customers of AT&T Inc. that they could lose access to channels such as Nickelodeon and MTV unless the companies reach a new programming agreement.
The current contract between the parties expires on Friday, Viacom said in an email. The media company began activating a “crawl” message on its networks, alerting customers of the looming dispute. The owner of DirecTV, AT&T is the largest pay-TV provider in the US, with 24.5 million subscribers.
Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central and BET, says it has made a series of offers to AT&T that allow the company to lower customers’ bills. The New York-based media company accused AT&T of using its new market position, as owner of Time Warner, to favor its own content.
Price disputes between media companies and pay-TV system owners reflect pressure on both sides to squeeze more money from a shrinking pool of cable and satellite customers. Programmers like Viacom count on ad revenue and subscriber fees to pay for the TV shows and movies they air. Pay-TV system owners like AT&T are losing customers to lower-priced options like Netflix Inc.