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Cablevision Files Federal Antitrust Lawsuit Against Viacom For Illegally Forcing Purchase Of Programming Services

BETHPAGE, N.Y., Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) filed an antitrust lawsuit today against Viacom (NYSE: VIA), in federal court in Manhattan, for illegally forcing Cablevision to carry and pay for 14 lesser-watched ancillary networks its customers do not want, such as Palladia, MTV Hits and VH1 Classic, in order to carry must-have networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Commenting on the lawsuit and Viacom, Cablevision offered the following statement:

"The manner in which Viacom sells its programming is illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong.  Viacom effectively forces Cablevision's customers to pay for and receive little-watched channels in order to get the channels they actually want.  Viacom's abuse of its market power is not only illegal, but also prevents Cablevision from delivering the programming that its customers want and that competes with Viacom's less popular channels."

Cablevision's suit contends that:

  • Viacom abused its market power over commercially critical networks, including must-have networks such as Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and MTV, to coerce Cablevision into carrying the 14 far less popular ancillary channels. 
  • Viacom coerced Cablevision by threatening to impose massive financial penalties unless Cablevision complied with Viacom's demands.
  • Viacom's conduct harms Cablevision and its customers, and impairs competition by making Cablevision pay for and carry networks that many subscribers do not want to watch, while other networks are excluded from distribution, preventing Cablevision from being able to differentiate its services and harming subscribers. 

Cablevision's complaint asserts that Viacom engaged in a "per se" illegal tying arrangement in violation of the federal antitrust laws.  Cablevision's antitrust 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.  Viacom's conduct also violates the Donnelly Act in New York State Law, which parallels federal anti-trust laws. 

The complaint was filed under seal and a public version is not yet available.

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