Full episodes of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have disappeared from the internet as a result of the spat beetween Viacom and DirecTV. Viacom wants to mobilize DirecTV customers against the operator, but the blackout affects everyone. Meanwhile, talks betwen both parties have resumed.


The ongoing carriage fee spat between Viacom and DirecTV just escalated to a whole new level: Viacom has taken a number of full episodes of programs like the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report off its websites. The step was taken to prevent DirecTV customers from accessing the content, but in turn shut off everyone else as well. Viewers who want to access an episode of the Daily Show are instead being shown the following message:

(Stewart and Colbert are on summer break so no new episodes of their shows are being blocked this week.)

The takedown, which was first spotted by BTIG’s Richard Greenfield, seems to affect a wide range of content: Clips and older long-form episodes are still available but most current or new full episodes aren’t being offered at Comedycentral.com, MTV.com or the other network sites. “We still have hundreds of long-form episodes remain online, for free, but we have temporarily slimmed down our offerings as DirecTV markets them as an alternative to having our networks,” Viacom spokesman Carl Folta explained during a phone conversation; more than 4,500 episodes are still up, he told us after checking. Folta also said Hulu and other partners who pay Viacom for its programming will continue to get it and be able to serve it up as usual.

Hulu.com’s offering is good news for anyone who wants to catch up on Jon Stewart’s latest election coverage, but it’s also notably different from the last retrans conflict that took a toll on online content: Back in late 2010, Fox made Hulu.com block access to its content for Cablevision customers, in addition to blocking Cablevision subscribers from accessing full episodes on its own website.

Viacom doesn’t have that kind of leverage this time around, simply because DirecTV isn’t a broadband provider. In other words: Viacom can’t single out people who subscribe to DirecTV for their TV programming online. Instead, if it wants to make a point to DirecTV subscribers, it has to cast its net much wider.

The online blackout comes after DirecTV told its customers where to watch their favorite shows online. It’s Viacom’s way of putting an additional layer of pressure on DirecTV, which also is likely to see campaigns from competitors Dish Network, Comcast and others hoping to peel off customers irked by the situation. It’s a reminder that streaming rights are part of the modern licensing deal — and a warning that while Viacom has promised to provide its distributors with on-demand broadband programming, it doesn’t have to do it for everyone else. The spigot can be opened, shut or set to a trickle any time Viacom chooses to do so.

The question is, as always with these kinds of stand-offs: Who does it hurt more? Viacom is risking some negative feedback from non-DirecTV subs, but that’s dwarfed by the huge revenue potential of higher carriage fees. DirecTV could lose subscribers; that risk is higher every day that this goes unresolved.

The damage this will do to both companies’ image is another matter entirely. DirecTV customers could get further riled up against their TV provider, and Viacom is using all of its web properties to stir that sentiment. However, customers of other TV service providers could feel like Viacom is unjustly dragging them into a fight that they’ve got no beef in.

The good news is that this could be a very temporary online blackout: Viacom and DirecTV are back at the table after an interlude where the two sides only talked to each other through the media.

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  1. Doesn’t Viacom also stand to lose huge money via advertising losses? DirecTV’s ~20 million subscribers are no longer available to support the ad rates that Viacom charges. I’m assuming that has to be real money Viacom is losing each day this goes on.

    In the end, I’m glad DirecTV is fighting this. Higher fees from Viacom means higher bills for me as a DirecTV subscriber. Sometimes you have to endure short term pain (although talk about a first world version of ‘pain’) for long term benefits.

    1. No, because Viacom actually owns a HUGE percent of the TV market, as well as other things like Nickelodeon, Neopets and things of that nature, all of which also generate money for them. They’re just having a pissing match because Via “can’t lose any more money” than the multi millions they make yearly. It’s all going down to greed.

  2. “Sometimes you have to endure short term pain (although talk about a first world version of ‘pain’) for long term benefits.”
    Alternatively you could just pirate everything.

    1. Yep, that’s just how it works. They will never learn. Aaarrrgh (patch over the eye for visual).

  3. I’m glad to see DirecTV (and Dish) stand up to content providers about their ridiculous rates. With the average cable or satellite bill over $80/mo, something’s got to be done.

    1. Ultimately it’s the MSOs fault. You can’t blame a content owner for wanting to be paid, if they could offer up their content online and cut out the middleman they most likely would, the MSOs blocked online streaming for years and years. Now with metering bandwidth the content owners have leverage and they should squeeze every penny they can out it.

      1. “Ultimately it’s the MSOs fault. You can’t blame a content owner for wanting to be paid.”

        As long as the networks rely on traditional distribution, you also cannot blame distributors for wanting to be profitable. It’s an insult for a distributor like Viacom, who’re doing their best to kill traditional distribution, to go to a traditional distributor and ask for significantly more money. There’s nothing reasonable about charging more for a product while simultaneously devaluing it for the customer.

      2. How is it the MSO’s fault when content providers want to charge more per subscriber, when those subscriber counts are dropping as people cut the cord. Less people watching on an MSO, less revenue generated for both companies. But content providers are making their money back by advertising with their shows on their websites. MSOs get left with the bill.

    2. One thing you can do is remove yourself from the system! I get broadband internet, but no calbe and no satellite. I subscribe to NetFlix for $8 and I watch most shows that I like that aren’t on NetFlix via network websites (CBS.com, NBC.com, etc.). There is only one show that I need to pirate to see (The Walking Dead). So my TV bill is $8 a month (NetFlix) and I watch a fraction of the ads I would on cable or satellite TV.

      Don’t let the big companies fool you into thinking you *need* them for some reason. There are more alternatives to cable and satellite every day. Try out the competition, that’s the best way you can send a message to cable and dish companies that you’re unhappy with them.

      1. Couldn’t agree with you more. As a young couple we tend to be a bit squeezed for cash so when we got a new apartment we held off on getting cable right away. Eventually we found Netflix and haven’t looked back since. I do not miss cable, paying four times more and being constantly bombarded by advertising, no thanks! We too make up the difference online at the network’s websites.

        Anyways, what made me comment in the first place was your comment about Walking Dead. It is on Netflix, do you pirate it because you don’t like the delay?

      2. I lived without Cable for eight years-never missed it. You’d be surprised that life offers plenty of ways to fill the “void”. Even now, my landlord provides cable for free. But I would not buy it if they didn’t. The shows will be on DVD, they will be online. I watched the six years of LOST years after it went off the air-and enjoyed it more that way than the traditional 22 episodes spread over 40 weeks. I know people who pay over $100/month for cable alone. $1200+ a year to sit in front of the TV. Then they pay $700-900 a year for their phone–so they can go on the internet and watch stuff on their phone!! And people wonder why they have money problems. TV used to be ONLY free. And eventually, the movies would be on free TV. I haven’t watched any TV (or even online streamed shows) since mid May.

      3. how do you get comedy central? Anyone? I don’t want to miss John Stewart and Colbert Nation when they are new

  4. I have DirectTv and I’m not “up in arms”. The only shows that I would actually miss on any of the channels in question would be South Park, Daily Show, and Colbert. I won’t watch any of the garbage that they show on MTV and VH1.

  5. I am a DTV subscriber and I don’t watch the vast majority of the Viacom brands. Then again, I hardly watch TV anymore and have been seriously considering cutting the cord for a while. I am out of contract and sick of paying out the nose for 400 channels of crap plus HBO. The HD picture I get with rabbit ears for the morning news is better than the dish, believe it or not, and I even get local “B” channels that aren’t on dish.

    TL;DR Use Rabbit Ear antenna and a digital converter box, and stick to what’s free OTA. At my current monthly, that would save $1,620 per year, and I don’t even have all the channels and only one nice set top box. Heck, I just convinced myself.

  6. tania maldonado Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Viacom doesn’t seem interested in holding onto the many customers and ratings channels like comedy central and MTV have. Pulling the interne streaming is a low blow and will end up hurting their company and pockets more than DirecTV. Do the grown up thing and keep your fan base and come to an agreement!


    1. Misty Britton Caldwell alfonso Friday, July 13, 2012

      Right on!

  8. mtv comedy central new awkard tomorrow i waited all week for it and now i cant f*ckin watch it nick cmt i loved all of thos why viacom f*ckin why

  9. I didn’t even know they were available legally. I just download torrents, which are still available despite the takedown. Companies seriously expect us to stop pirating their content when they act like little bitches and don’t offer an alternative?

    1. +1

      Couldn’t have put it better myself. Piracy ftw! (as usual)

  10. Hulu episodes still work!

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