PITTSBURGH, December 31, 2008 - Television viewers tuning in to one of the 19 MTV Networks owned by Viacom were treated to a holiday surprise today as the media giant informed tens of millions of cable and satellite subscribers across the country that "starting tonight, you will lose 19 channels from your TV." The real surprise however, is that for more than 82 million subscribers reading this dramatic declaration on a continuous crawl running from left to right at the bottom of the television it isn't true.
Today's announcement is the latest ill-conceived attempt by Viacom to increase public pressure on regional cable operators Time-Warner and Bright House Networks (13.2 and 2.3 million subscribers respectively) in an effort to increase programming rates for the operators. The media giant's inability to geographically target today's message and its failure to consider the ramifications of inaccurately informing more than 80 million cable and satellite television subscribers that they would soon be losing access to 19 popular stations, has caused a public outcry among operators and subscribers around the country, including the American Cable Association (ACA) and its 1,000 members.
"Viacom has shown reprehensible judgment today while engaging in what amounts to a national misinformation campaign against thousands of cable operators and millions of subscribers," American Cable Association Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Wave Broadband, Steve Friedman said. "They seem to have no trouble targeting a specific operator when they refuse to pay higher programming fees and it comes time to turn off their service, so how is it they can't target an operator with a dangerously misleading message like this? Their reckless disregard is costing cable operators and satellite providers around the country time, money, and subscribers by the hour. It must be put to a stop immediately."
"It is fitting that on the final day of 2008, a year that saw an escalation in both programming and retransmission fees for operators and the lengths programmers were willing to go to collect them, Viacom has chosen to go to a new low and broadcast the most foolish and inflammatory message we have seen to date," American Cable Association President and CEO, Matthew M. Polka said. "Remarkably, if Viacom's message had been successfully directed to only Time Warner and Bright House Networks 15.6 collective subscribers it may have been unnecessarily abusive, but hardly out of the norm. It is, however, beyond the norm and completely unacceptable that they would erroneously and imprudently alarm 82.9 million subscribers around the country that have nothing to do with that mess and are now concerned their service will soon be disrupted. The crawl maliciously and unnecessarily interferes with our members' ability to serve their customers and must be pulled."
The crawl appearing on more than 98 million subscriber's televisions reads as follows:
"Alert! Alert! Alert!
Attention Time Warner Cable and Bright House Network customers, starting tonight, you will lose 19 channels from your TV including MTV, VH1, Spike, Comedy Central, TV Land, Nickelodeon and Noggin
Don't miss out on your favorite shows. You can stop this! Time Warner Cable customers call 1-800-762 3786 Bright House Networks customers call 1 866 309 3279 and demand they keep these channels! Must be at least 18 years old to call."
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About the American Cable AssociationBased in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing 1,100 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.
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