Viacom's dispute with DirecTV over the fees the satellite provider pays to carry its channels turned black when the programmer pulled the plug on networks like Nick, MTV, Comedy Central and VH1 at midnight on July 11. About 20 million households that subscribe to DirecTV lost the channels, according to the New York Times, while the two companies continued to blame each other via competing statements.
Disgruntled customers took to Twitter to direct their anger at the companies, which, from the consumer's point of view, are both responsible for depriving them of popular shows like The Daily Show and SpongeBob SquarePants. We've listed the top four hashtags tweeters are using to discuss the stand-off.
#DIRECTVHasMyBack—DirecTV started this hashtag to serve as a rallying point for DirecTV supporters. The theme in @Chesirecat25's tweet is a popular one—"I refuse to support @viacom when they are trying to charge me more money. Support @Directv #DirectvHasMyBack."
With the exception of a few tweets like this one from @yeahitskevin: "Directv is trying to trend, #DIRECTVHasMyBack...the only thing you have is pissed customers," most of the tweets in the stream support DirectTV and accuse Viacom of requesting more money.
#Viacom; #DirecTV (used in combination)—On the organically created #Viacom and #DirecTV hashtags, streams of tweets contain predominately negative sentiments about Viacom, but often slam both. One example, @courtmattison: "I really can't get over
#Viacom and #DirecTV dragging their consumers into a business feud http://yfrog.com/oe7zrrmdj."
#Spongebob—Not as active a stream as the others, but here there are pleas from parents who simply want their children's favorite programming back. For example: @chamberssteve: "Hey @viacom thx for taking away my son's #Spongebob Squarepants. Still won't leave @directv# DIRECTVhasMyBack http://twitpic.com/a6mqu0."
On Wednesday, Viacom posted an image on its Facebook page of Nickelodeon character SpongeBob SquarePants with the words, "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? I don't know. I have DirecTV," reports the Times. This pushed the porous yellow character into the middle of the feud.
#DirecTVpromise—At 11:56 p.m. on July 9, DirecTV launched all of its Viacom-based messaging on DirecTVPromises.com, including a video message from CEO Mike White, reports CableFAX. The site has an impressive hub of FAQs, a fact vs. fiction section and the latest developing news—and it's influencing customers. The #direcTVpromise hashtag, though relatively sparse in tweets, contains several tweets like this one: @CristalRandolph: "After reading through the Web site, I will stand firm with #directv. #Viacom just being greedy...#directvpromise."
In DirecTV's July 11 statement, according to the Times, the company claimed that it tried hard to get Viacom to continue to negotiate, but "never heard back" from the company. Now, thanks to DirecTV's relatively positive standing in social media, Viacom is hearing back from thousands of DirecTV customers.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg