On July 10th, 2012, millions of Americans awoke shocked to find that all 26 of Viacom’s television properties—including youth epic center MTV, kid-friendly Nickelodeon, and bro network Comedy Central—were suddenly dropped from their DirecTV subscriptions. Children screamed in horror, trendy sweet sixteeners angrily shook their fists in the air, and the country as a whole was swallowed up into an apocalyptic frenzy as the great lords of evil soon rose from the ground and began their reign of hell on earth—or that’s what I imagine would happen if anyone were to really mess with America’s television.
So no, this is not the sign of the apocalypse just because little Jimmy can’t watch Spongebob Squarepantsanymore, but it is a crucial issue for all of you couch whores (and no worries, we count ourselves in that statement). The pressing questions and answers from the Viacom/DirecTV showdown:
What the hell happened?
Well, if you had been following the news (philistine), then you’d know that Viacom and Directv have been having a bit of a tiff lately in regards to the cost of paying for network television. Basically, DirecTV wasn’t exactly thrilled with its customers paying what they saw as inflated rates for network television packages, which included all of Viacom’s channels. This is very similar to what happened to AMC and Dish earlier this year: Dish wasn’t particularly a fan of AMC’s package and dropped the popular network just last week. On Tuesday July 10th, after DirecTV and Viacom failed to meet in the middle on a negotiation, all channels under the Viacom brand were dropped on midnight, leaving nearly 20 million viewers without the blinding, oppressive love of Spongebob, Dora, and Snooki.
So who’s to blame?
Well, that’s the problem. Both sides have been claiming that the other is responsible: DirecTV claims that Viacom wanted to force DirecTV’s viewer base to pay 30% more to continue watching their favorite programs which hasn’t been fair since ratings for many Viacom channels have dropped. Meanwhile, Viacom writes on their blog that they’re only asking for an increase of a couple of pennies, and that DirecTV has been less than open to negotiation. So this has become one big clusterfuck where all parties are pointing fingers at each other.
So when are my channels coming back?
No one really knows. While DirecTV assures their consumers that Viacom programming will return as soon as possible, this still ostensibly means a couple of weeks without some top programming shows. Even if the Viacom networks experience a decrease in ratings, this still can’t be good for anyone involved, including DirecTV and viewers in general.
F*ck this—I’m switching over to Netflix/Hulu/whatever website that lets me get this crap for free!
I don’t believe there ever will be a decade where the television set will be replaced—it’s so stubbornly a part of Americana that people will own one simply because it’s a part of The American Household—but one can’t deny that it’s getting harder and harder to justify being billed for television in the midst of the online streaming revolution: Hulu offers internet users hundreds of television shows (many of which are currently airing)—all for free, most networks provide an on demand-type service on their websites where full episodes can be streamed for free (though television providers have been softening the blow a bit by having some sites require that you have cable or satellite before you can even access the episodes), and of course, tech savvy individuals can illegally download high-quality versions of their favorite television shows. Unlike being forced to pay for thousands of channels that no one but the dullest of dullards would choose to watch, online streaming gives users the choice to consume what they want, when they want. While this whole mess probably won’t signal the end of television as we know it, it certainly lends credit to the notion that online-streaming might be better (and slightly cheaper) alternative.
So what have we learned today?
That when it comes to money, corporate conglomerates get extremely hissy about these things and sometimes these guys come roaring out in public. This is a particularly nasty situation, and as fun as it is to mercilessly mock those who still have satellite, it’s a pretty bad wrap for all involved: Viacom loses viewers and viewer reach, DirecTV gains—and loses—angry customers, and until the two come to an agreement, you’re not getting yourJersey Shore fist pump on anytime soon.