EchoStar [DISH] and Viacom [VIA] at our press time were discussing renewing programming agreements for MTV Nets and Viacom-owned CBS stations. Viacom agreed to provide signals through Fri (an earlier extension was to expire yesterday). EchoStar Wed called discussions "fruitful." Viacom said its preference is to reach an agreement, though there are "still significant issues between us." Those issues could be seen in Viacom’s response to a DISH lawsuit. In a 32-page response in the US District Court for N CA Wed, the programmer whacked DISH for trying to get the courts involved. "Having manufactured a phony emergency [by "dragging its feet" in negotiations], EchoStar rushed to court, giving Viacom 10 minutes’ notice, to induce the court to intervene in the parties’ negotiations," Viacom told the court. The programmer also rebuffed DISH’s antitrust claims over the tying of CBS retrans and the addition of Nicktoons, saying the DBS provider’s problems really come down to price. "One would never know from EchoStar’s position that earlier in the negotiations in 2003 it was EchoStar that wanted a global (i.e., bundled) deal encompassing all of Viacom broadcast and cable services, or that historically such ‘tied’ negotiations have been, and are, the norm in the industry," Viacom’s response said. EchoStar defended the lawsuit, saying it was the result of Viacom’s "strong-arm, bullying tactics." "Viacom … is trying to turn the Super Bowl into a mandatory PPV event, holding millions of American consumers hostage in the process," an EchoStar rep said, claiming Viacom is demanding rate increases of as much as 40% for some nets. Viacom recently reached renewal deals with DirecTV and Mediacom [MCCC]. DISH is negotiating with Turner on net renewals, including CNN and Boomerang.

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