Clash of TV titans could hasten exodus away from cable

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If you subscribe to Spectrum, the cable television provider that replaced Time Warner Cable in Western New York, there is good news and bad news: The pay TV service is in a feud with Viacom, owner of 23 cable networks, over money that, if it is not settled soon, could cause Viacom’s TV networks to be blacked out.

The two companies missed a Sunday deadline to reach an agreement, but the good news is they agreed to extend the deadline and keep talking.

Their dispute comes down to how much Spectrum will pay Viacom to carry its programming, known as a retransmission fee, and the stakes are high. Both companies are titans of the TV industry, and both stand to take a big hit, if Spectrum blacks out some of Viacom’s more popular programming, such as Nickelodeon, MTV, or Comedy Central.

Viacom has launched a public relations campaign to encourage Spectrum’s customers to take their side in the dispute with Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum Cable. Viacom has produced video messages promoting a website, KeepViacom.com, and posting a phone number for subscribers to register their support of Viacom.

This clash of TV titans is also giving pause to consumers, who have been cutting the cable in increasing numbers over the years, to consider video alternatives. Industry analysts are predicting Cable TV, satellite, and other pay TV services will lose more than a million subscribers in 2017.

That’s because consumers have choices such as Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV, which they can stream over the Internet without a cable, and Dan Ackerman, a senior editor for CNET points out, some of these video services can be received using a smartphone app.

“It will show you where it is playing, if it is only on one service, if it is on multiple services, or in some cases, which is really rare, if it is not anywhere yet.”

If the two sides fail to come up with an agreement, and a blackout of Viacom’s 23 networks is imposed, more than 16 million Spectrum subscribers would be affected. Analysts project Viacom could take a 16 percent loss in revenues, amounting to more than $700 million.

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