EchoStar, Viacom Do Deal

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EchoStar Communications Corp. and Viacom Inc. early Thursday morning struck a long-term carriage deal, resolving a long and contentious fight over money and channels that had resulted in lawsuits and ill will in Washington.

In fact, the agreement came just hours after legislators urged them to settle their differences in time for the NCAA basketball playoffs next week on CBS.

EchoStar had balked at CBS's price for carriage of its TV stations--new terms were not disclosed--and had sued Viacom, saying that it was leveraging its control of the public airwaves to force the satellite company to carry cable channels it didn't want and that could potentially bump other channels it did want.

The heated rhetoric at times mirrored that of presidential primary opponents, then cooled just as quickly when the deal was done. "We look forward to continuing to serve our viewers through DISH Network far into the future," said Viacom President Mel Karmazin. "We also look forward to a long relationship with Viacom," said EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen.

The deal restores 16 CBS stations and cable nets MTV, MTV2 , Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Noggin, GAS, VH1, VH1 Classic, MTV Espanol and BET in all EchoStar markets. EchoStar also agreed to add new network Nicktoons in the spring. the deal also extends carriage agreements for CBS HD, Spike TV, CMT and TV Land.

The agrement settles all carriage litigation between the two companies. Ergen said its DISH Network remains the lowest-cost digital TV provider in the country.

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