he legal dispute between Cablevision and Viacom is getting ugly.
The cable TV provider sued Viacom in federal court last week, accusing the media conglomerate of forcing Cablevision to pay extra for more than a dozen lesser-watched channels in order to carry more popular networks, such as Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV.
In newly released filings, Cablevision accuses Viacom of "strong-arm" tactics, claiming that Viacom threatened a $1 billion penalty if Cablevision didn't fall in line.
But "in order to make sense," the Cablevision complaint hinges on a "dubious proposition," says Daniel Fisher at Forbes — "That it has a limited amount of bandwidth for transmitting video, and Viacom is hogging it all by forcing Cablevision to carry channels it doesn't want."
But with the advent of original programming on sites such as Netflix and Hulu, "it will become harder for cable operators to claim, as Cablevision does in its lawsuits, that it has limited electronic shelf space," says Fisher.
The "heart of the suit is a longstanding complaint from cable and satellite operators" over carriage fees, says Shalini Ramachandran at The Wall Street Journal. Distributors say that the practice, known as bundling, "makes it harder for them to beat back the persistent increase in programming costs," and that higher costs are ultimately passed along to customers' monthly bills.
"This anti-consumer abuse of market power is a key reason cable bills continue to rise and programming choice remains limited," Cablevision said in a statement.
Several other major distributors, including DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, and Charter, have rallied behind Cablevision's suit, which industry experts are watching closely.
Viacom has criticized the lawsuit, calling it "misguided," "ill-advised," and a "hypocritical attempt" to void an earlier deal.
A company statement also called the charges "as factual as an episode of Walking Dead on AMC, which like all the networks controlled by Cablevision's management is also offered in a bundle to distributors."
That reference to Walking Dead was meant to sting, explains Alex Sherman at Bloomberg Businessweek: James Dolan is Cablevision’s CEO, but his family controls shares in AMC, which airs Walking Dead.
- WATCH: Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly spar over the Obama scandals
- Could the Cleveland kidnapping victims have been rescued sooner?
- WATCH: LeBron James' unbelievable, last-second, game-winning shot
- WATCH: Suspect defends brutal beheading of London man in broad daylight
- Sadly, you are uglier than you think
- A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds
- How the White House's war on media backfired
- 10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2013
- Is Greek yogurt hurting the environment?
- London's gruesome attack and the rising threat of lone-wolf terrorism
- The politics behind Kanye West's 'New Slaves'
- Are we on the cusp of a solar energy boom?
- Why Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn doesn't want tornado relief money
- WATCH: Jon Stewart hates everyone in Washington now
- LIVE UPDATES: Massive tornado tears through Oklahoma City area
- Angry at the government? 5 ways you can fight back
- 7 purported health benefits of drinking coffee
- What is a quantum computer — and why does Google need one?
- Why NASA is funding a 3D pizza printer
- The cool backstory of the Slurpee