Fee Dispute with DirecTV Leads Viacom to Pull Popular Shows Off the Web

Much-loved Viacom shows such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, SpongeBob Squarepants, iCarly, and Jersey Shore can no longer be viewed online due to the company's ongoing dispute with DirecTV over carriage fees.

The beef between DirecTV and Viacom concerns an increase of 30% in carriage fees — or over $1 billion. Viacom claims this amounts to only "a couple pennies per day, per subscriber," and says DirecTV has been taking advantage of "way below market rates" for years.

"Viacom is now not only holding DirecTV customers hostage, but all online viewers as well," said DirecTV in a statement. "Is this just another underhanded negotiating tactic, or does this mean that Viacom will no longer offer its content free online?"

In the past, analysts have criticized Viacom for making content available for streaming online, but Viacom said many of its shows can still be viewed through content partners such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and iTunes.

"We still have hundreds of long-form episodes remain online, for free, but we have temporarily slimmed down our offerings as DirecTV markets them as an alternative to having our networks," Viacom spokesman Carl Folta told GigaOM.

On Reddit, users have pointed out that manipulating IP settings in order to view Daily Show and Colbert Report episodes on Canada's Comedy Network seems to work for American viewers — and had a hearty chuckle at the irony.

Meanwhile, DirecTV and Viacom have returned to the negotiating table, but, by DirecTV CEO Mike White's own admission, the companies remain "pretty far apart."

[screengrab via The Daily Show]