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Viacom dispute extends past deadline

By Ryan Cornell

The National Cable Television Cooperative was supposed to meet an agreement with programming company Viacom by midnight on Monday.

Since 11 p.m. Monday, Viacom has been granting hourly extensions to the group. For each hour that passes, Viacom grants another one-hour extension.

The cooperative, which includes Shentel as one of its cable company members, is negotiating to minimize the rate increase that Viacom is demanding.

If the cooperative doesn't agree to the rate increase, Viacom could pull its channels off the TVs of Shentel subscribers and about 5 million viewers across the U.S. These channels include CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike, TV Land and VH1.

Chris Kyle, Shentel vice president of industry relations and regulatory, said the rate increase demanded by Viacom is 40 times the rate of inflation.

"Think about what you pay for gas -- three dollars and some change," he said. "And then all of a sudden, tomorrow that goes up by 40 times the rate of inflation."

He said they're pushing to minimize the impact on consumers by having the channels remain on TV. If the channels owned by Viacom disappear from subscriber televisions, he said Shentel will give customers a credit for the value of those channels.

"Last night, starting at about midnight, we began to see some compromise on their part," he said. "I'm hopeful and expect we'll have a deal worked out at some point in the next 24 to 48 hours."

Kyle said the larger the programming company, the more difficult the negotiations are.

Disney, which owns the ESPN networks, has its contract up for renewal later this year, he added.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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