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Puerto Rico cable operator drops Viacom channels in carriage dispute

The corporate logo for Viacom.
The corporate logo for Viacom.

Puerto Ricans will no longer get their MTV.

Liberty Puerto Rico announced over the weekend that it would drop Viacom’s suite of cable offerings after the pay TV company failed to reach a retransmission agreement with the broadcaster.

As of Monday, channels like Comedy Central, MTV and TV Land are no longer offered to Liberty’s customers. The cable provider said the decision to drop Viacom’s programming was made after the broadcaster demanded more in retransmission fees.

“Many of these channels have a minimal audience and altogether do not represent good value,” Liberty Puerto Rico head Naji Khoury said, adding that most of Viacom’s programming could be found online for free.

In place of the Viacom channels, Liberty has started offering customers alternative programming from FOX and AMC Networks, including IFC and the FX Movie Channel. The cable company will also start carrying PBS Kids in lieu of Nickelodeon.

Khoury said the new channels “have content that responds to our customers’ requests.”

It is unclear if negotiations between Liberty and Viacom are continuing or if customers can expect the channels to re-appear anytime soon.

Viacom is no stranger to carriage disputes. In 2004, Viacom and CBS channels were yanked from Dish Network for two days after retransmission negotiations broke down. Dish offered alternative programming from Disney and Encore during the blackout.

In 2012, millions of DirecTV customers lost Viacom programming for nearly two weeks during a much-publicized retransmission spat between the two companies. In addition to a rate increase, Viacom demanded DirecTV carry their full lineup of channels, including some children’s programming that DirecTV felt was low-rated. In the end, the two inked a deal to bring all 17 of Viacom’s channels to the satellite platform.

Both DirecTV and Dish Network offer service — including Viacom programming — to Puerto Rico.

Liberty Puerto Rico, a subsidiary of Liberty Global, has over 200,000 cable customers according to its website.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).