Cable Wars

Why channel blackouts are getting worse

On a recent Wednesday night, Annie Scalambrino, 20, flipped on MTV to watch one of her favorite shows, The Real World--only to find nonstop DirecTV ads. "I was really thrown off," she recalls. The reason: her satellite provider (DirecTV) and the media company it rents channels from (Viacom) couldn't agree on how much they should be paying each other, which meant that viewers of any Viacom channel--Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and others--were left in the dark. (The dispute has since been resolved.)

Sound familiar? It should. In the first 6 months of 2012, there have been 22 broadcast blackouts--up from 15...

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