* Viacom says did not violate antitrust law
* Cablevision says forced to buy channels it did not want
By Jonathan Stempel
May 8 Viacom Inc said on Wednesday a $1
billion lawsuit by Cablevision Systems Corp accusing it
of forcing cable providers and subscribers to buy channels they
don't want, should be thrown out.
The owner of MTV and Nickelodeon contended that Cablevision
should be bound by its contract, and should not be allowed to
take a legal position it had recently opposed in a similar case.
Viacom made its argument in a Wednesday filing in Manhattan
federal court, in response to Cablevision's Feb. 26 lawsuit
accusing it of violating antitrust law over its "bundling" of
Cablevision accused Viacom of coercing it into paying for
14 low-rated or obscure "Suite Networks" channels such as
Palladia and Tr3s if it also wanted eight "Core Networks"
channels such as Comedy Central, TV Land and VH1.
The Bethpage, New York-based cable TV provider said Viacom's
bundling, also known as "tying," sapped bandwidth it could have
used for other channels from other programmers.
But in Wednesday's filing, New York-based Viacom said its
licensing agreement did not entitle Cablevision to pick and
choose channels, an "a la carte" approach favored by Cablevision
founder Charles Dolan. It also said Cablevision waited too long
to object, having operated under similar conditions since 2008.
In addition, Viacom said Cablevision was taking the opposite
position it had taken when both companies, and other content
providers and distributors, persuaded a federal appeals court in
California in March 2012 to throw out a similar lawsuit.
That court rejected a claim by retail cable and satellite TV
subscribers that they be allowed to buy only the specific
individual channels they wanted.
"Cablevision has not plausibly alleged how Viacom's
'forcing' it to carry a trivial and insignificant number of
Suite Networks among its 550 channels" thwarts competition or
keeps rival channels out of the market, Viacom said in
Cablevision had no immediate comment.
Comcast Corp, DirecTV, Walt Disney Co
, News Corp's Fox Entertainment Group, Time
Warner Inc and Time Warner Cable Inc were among
the other defendants in the California case. The U.S. Supreme
Court in November refused to accept the subscribers' appeal.
The case is Cablevision Systems Corp et al. v. Viacom
International Inc et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District
of New York, 13-01278.