The dispute between Viacom and DirecTV has now dragged on for more than a week, and the outlook is dim that 20 million paying DirecTV subscribers are going to be able to enjoy basic cable TV staples such as Comedy Central, MTV, or Nickelodeon anytime soon.
Personally, I would be standing on top of my roof (next to my satellite dish) screaming at bewildered neighbors based on the loss of Comedy Central's Workaholics alone. And even though Viacom has attempted to mollify disgruntled viewers by making The Daily Show and Colbert Report available online, clearly that's not going to wash if an agreement isn't hammered out soon.
The bad news is that the negotiations have reached the ugly stage, with Viacom vaguely claiming that DirecTV won't budge, and DirecTV in response leaking the detail – or at least the alleged detail – that Viacom wants to shove the EPIX channel onto the satellite provider's lineup at a hefty half a billion dollar fee on top of increased fees that DirecTV has, again, allegedly agreed to.
I watch a lot of TV and enjoy heading out into the hinterland fringes of the cable television dial to see what weird and marvelous offerings I can find. And, honestly, EPIX is just one of those movie channels that blend in with a dozen others. So a half a billion dollars does seem like an awful lot of blood money – as Mikey in Swingers complained to Trent at the poker table – to pay out just to get a deal done.
Of course, we don't know for sure what is going on and what is truly at stake in these negotiations in terms of the money part between the two sides.
But we do know a few things. These disputes over carriage fees (also see: Dish Networks vs. AMC Networks) are set against a backdrop in which consumers have a vast array of options to consume media, with technology now able to support any number of distribution means into the home, the desktop, mobile devices, and on and on.
And all of that means that the "middle men" distributors have much less raison d'etre than ever before.
The times, they are a changin'. It just stinks for people who are stuck paying out good money and not able to watch shows they enjoy in the meantime.
My money is on more people cutting the cord each day.