EchoStar [DISH] chief Charlie Ergen said repeatedly during his televised "Charlie Chat" at 9pm ET last night that within hours Viacom [VIA] networks and CBS o-and-o’s in 16 markets on DISH would go dark. "We really have no choice," he said, according to SkyReport. "It’s pretty hard to believe." Both sides said before Chat began that talks were continuing, however. But the rhetoric level was very high during Ergen’s show. A graphic suggested Viacom wanted $200mln in additional fees and $350mln for channels with low viewership, although the graphics didn’t offer specifics. Another graphic said "Viacom refuses to be reasonable." "There’s no way Viacom can or will give Charlie Ergen a better deal than it gives Rupert Murdoch or Brian Roberts," Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone said earlier Mon. "It’s not even a matter of choice. Think of what would happen to us if we did that." Ergen claims Viacom wants up to 40% more for some nets. Viacom says the increase would be about 6 cents/month/sub for all its channels. Cable appears ready to take advantage of the fight, with Adelphia, Time Warner Cable and Comcast [CMCSA] sending out a news release informing S CA Dish Net subs of a hotline to assist those who lose CBS as a result of the spat (1-800-800-CABLE). The L.A. cable operators promised subs priority cable installation and a "generous" allowance to assist in buying out the remainder of their DBS contracts ($400 in the case of Adelphia). EchoStar stands to lose CBS in 16 markets and 20 Viacom-owned cable nets at midnight PT. Besides L.A., DISH could lose CBS in Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

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