STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Almost 20 million subscribers of the country's largest satellite TV provider are now unable to access dozens of channels.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports that DirecTV ordered the blackout after its distribution agreement with Viacom ended.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: If you believe this Viacom video, the sky is about to fall because DirecTV viewers can no longer tune into the antics of "SpongeBob SquarePants," Jon Stewart, or Snooki.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE AD)
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This is a bad situation- it's like the end of civilization. DirecTV dropped MTV
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Nickelodeon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: We're doomed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Comedy Central.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: No.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: That's so sad.
BARCO: Viacom officials says they asked DirecTV to renew their seven year old contract, asking for more money. Now, DirecTV CEO Michael White asks customers to be patient.
MICHAEL WHITE: It's a temporary and regrettable tactic to try to force you to pay substantially more for all their networks, even the ones you don't watch or care about. We think that's unreasonable.
BARCO: White says Viacom is demanding customers pay 30 percent more for their channels, or a billion dollars extra. Meanwhile, Viacom is shooting back with a video campaign, asking viewers to demand their favorite TV characters back on the air.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIACOM AD)
ANNOUNCER: When DirecTV drops your favorite channels, SpongeBob gets upset. When SpongeBob gets upset, he calls Stephen Colbert. When he calls Stephen Colbert, Colbert rallies the troops...
BARCO: This is not the only satellite TV blackout over distribution fees. For now, Dish network viewers are also unable to watch "Mad Men" and other AMC shows, and the Independent Film Channel.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.