by Douglas Hufnagel
The answer is, as it always seems to be, not anytime soon. However, we are seeing a glimmer of potential in a case that concerns Viacom and Cablevision. Cablevision had filed an anti-trust lawsuit in Manhattan’s federal court last year, and the court dates are finally coming close (Deadline reports that court dates will be set on August 1 of this year).
In the suit, Viacom must defend the common practice of bundling stations, which bundles all of a provider’s channels into a single package that cable companies must choose whether or not to pay for. Cablevision claims that this practice, which usually protects a provider’s less watched stations from being cut by packaging them with very popular channels, violates federal anti-trust laws and should be discontinued. Viacom’s defenses have called the suit “frivolous” but have not publicly addressed many of Cablevision’s legal arguments, which are strong enough that the case, after more than a year, is going forward in federal court.
Viacom’s largest properties are Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central, although the provider is truly a mid-lister behind the giant providers like NBC, Disney, Fox, and others. I believe that Cablevision chose Viacom to sue in order to make sure that they did not suddenly find the immense legal resources of someone like Comcast (which owns NBC and associates), the Disney Corporation, or News Corp against them. In short, they needed a chance at winning while proving they were able to win against somebody of relative importance.
The suit could easily take a year to settle, or more if either side drags out appeals and use all sorts of other legal techniques that make court cases of such magnitude last for multiple years. In the meantime, consumers will have to watch carefully and see how this unfolds.
[Photo via Getty Images]