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Cablevision's antitrust suit against Viacom to move forward

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 1:38pm
Brian Santo

The antitrust lawsuit filed by Cablevision against Viacom is moving ahead, despite Viacom’s effort to get it dismissed. Should the suit continue, and be decided in Cablevision’s favor, it would set a precedent restricting the ability of programmers to force MVPDs to accept bundles of ancillary – and usually unwanted – content in order to get access to premium channels.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied in its entirety Viacom’s motion to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed by Cablevision Systems in February 2013.

Cablevision filed the antitrust lawsuit against Viacom for forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched networks that Cablevision says its customers do not want. Cablevision contends the tactic, which is common, is illegal.

Cablevision said it was forced to carry such channels as Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic, in order to carry must-have networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Cablevision’s complaint asserts that Viacom engaged in a “per se” illegal channel tying arrangement in violation of the federal antitrust laws.  The lawsuit also asserts that Viacom has engaged in unlawful “block booking,” which is a form of tying that conditions the sale of a package of rights on the purchaser’s taking of other rights. 

Cablevision’s statement following the District Court decision not to dismiss read: “We are gratified the Court has ruled that Cablevision has stated a valid antitrust claim against Viacom for illegal channel tying.  We continue to believe that Viacom’s tying of its popular networks to carriage of its lesser-watched ancillary networks is illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong. We look forward to further pressing our case at the next stage of the proceeding.”

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