Web wails as DirecTV channels go dark
(CNN) — It’s a first-world problem of epic proportions, and the couch potatoes of the Web aren’t pleased.
Just before midnight Tuesday, a dispute between satellite provider DirecTV and mass-media company Viacom led to nearly 20 million customers losing access to 26 channels Viacom owns.
On social media Wednesday, it seemed like a good chunk of those millions were lashing out, telling the world that they want their MTV … or Nickelodeon … or VH1, Spike, BET and Comedy Central.
“When my son cant watch ‘The Backyardigans’ tomorrow he might call DirecTV himself,” Atlanta Falcons All-Pro cornerback Brent Grimes posted on Twitter, referring to the Nickelodeon animated series.
Some less-famous Twitter users turned to humor, and Jay-Z lyrics, to address the situation.
“If you got DirecTV I feel bad for you son, I got 999 channels and you just lost some!” tweeted user “Ezel From Friday.”
And like any good dispute in the Twitter-and-Facebook age, the two principals cranked up an online fight of their own.
Viacom retweeted several posts blaming DirecTV for the blackout, many from stars of shows that air on the affected channels. It also used the site to accuse DirecTV of refusing to negotiate.
DirecTV, in turn, hammered home its case, saying Viacom wants to raise the price of the channels, which would in turn create more expensive service for subscribers.
It shared a link to its own version of the dispute and a post saying it hopes “to reach an agreement soon & keep your bill low.”
Both companies also were sharing their side with fans on Facebook, where customers were responding with hundreds of often-angry comments.
“This is ridiculous, I’ve only had DirecTv for 6 months and this is the SECOND time that we’ve lost channels that we watch on a regular basis,” one fan of DirecTV’s Facebook page wrote. “Get your stuff together and get it settled BEFORE it affects us as customers. It’s very unprofessional. I will be canceling once my contract is up.”
On its own page, Viacom took a bit of a cheap shot Wednesday afternoon, posting an image of Nickelodeon cartoon favorite SpongeBob SquarePants with this text:
“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? I don’t know. I have DirecTV.”
More than a few Facebook fans weren’t amused by the stunt.
“WOW, Viacom! You win the crown for King of corporate [expletive]s!” one of them wrote. “My kids are upset because they can’t watch Spongebob anymore after you rubbed it in their faces with that lousy commercial you came up with to HURT their feelings and make Directtv look like a bunch of [expletive]s and now here you are making a joke about it. YOU SUCK!!!!!”
Of course, neither company has the chops to talk smack like a pro wrestler.
Grappling legend Hulk Hogan appears on “TNA Wrestling Impact,” which airs on Spike. He took to YouTube in a video that makes up in intensity what it lacks in nuance.
“I’ve had a world of piledriving punishment dished out to me, brother, but I’ve never been hurt like I am right now since I heard that DirecTV dropped Spike,” he says in the video, which had only a modest 3,200 views as of midday Wednesday.
Some complaints, of course, were perhaps more self-aware than others.
“Dear Direct TV … I want my expensive service to include all the channels I once had. Thanks,” read one tweet.
Who was that complaining about having to pay so much for blacked-out satellite service? Reality-TV star, NBA wife and millionaire heiress Khloe Kardashian.
So, what are subscribers to do while the two entertainment titans hash out the dispute? Here are a few alternatives:
Web services like Hulu Plus offer the current seasons of many TV offerings, with episodes appearing shortly after they air. Comedy Central’s “South Park” and “The Daily Show” and The CW’s “Supernatural” are just a few of the top offerings listed under Hulu’s “Currently On Air” feature.
And right now, Hulu is offering a free one-week trial — so if you get lucky, you might be able to ride out the spat without paying anything extra (Khloe Kardashian, take note).
Amazon, Netflix and other providers offer current TV series as well. So, worst-case scenario, even if you can’t get the latest episode of your current favorites, you can review past seasons or catch up on those shows you’ve been meaning to check out.