EchoStar [DISH] and Viacom told lawmakers Wed they are nearing an agreement. Late Wed both sides expressed assurances that an accord would be reached "very soon." CBS evp Martin Franks said a solution would be arrived at in a "very timely fashion," while Rep Fred Upton (R-MI) exhorted all parties involved to "cut to the chase and see if we can’t come to an agreement, especially as March Madness begins." DISH’s Marc Lumpkin last evening said: "We’re talking and we’re hopeful that we can reach an agreement." The nets could go back up on a moment’s notice once a deal is reached. — Backlash? Whiplash: Just as it didn’t take long for subs to register their disenchantment with DISH Network for blacking out Viacom/CBS, cable didn’t hesitate before diving into the fray. Cox knows a bit about friction between distributors and programmers. It fired a shot in solidarity with its sky rivals, declaring the dispute is proof that the balance of power between both sides is busted. "It’s increasingly difficult to keep retail cable prices reasonable when big media content companies misuse local broadcast retransmission consent to extort unreasonable and expensive national programming carriage deals," Cox said. "In the end, consumers lose." DBS subs are getting the hard sell from local cable, too. Ghostbuster—er, make that DISHbuster—Dan Aykroyd’s anti-DBS screeds for Charter have been in heavy rotation in the MSO’s markets during the past 24 hrs; the spots let disaffected dishheads know they can switch to cable, and fast. "DISH Network’s loss of some of television’s most popular programming … played right into our ‘Dish Intervention’ campaign," says Kip Simonson, svp, sales & mktg. (Simonson also hyped Charter’s "SpongeBob" advantage.) Programmers also are getting their digs in. Music net Fuse appreciates EchoStar’s suggestions to subs missing MTV and VH1 to try other music channels. Makes us feel "like the other white meat," Fuse says.

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