Viacom resumed posting online episodes of "The Daily Show' and "Colbert Report" Tuesday, the day after Jon Stewart blasted the company that owns his network for its handling of a dispute with DirecTV. But Viacom said the return of the online clips had nothing to do with Stewart's blasting his corporate overlords.
"Viacom and DirecTV, what are you doing here? You got ad campaigns blaming each other for taking the shows away, telling people to "rise up and demand it" like some kind of basic cable Arab Spring. I've got news for you: It's not," the "Daily Show" host said. "None of this matters. None of this is indispensable."
The clips disappeared online during the standoff between Viacom and DirecTV that led to DirecTV cutting off Viacom channels last week. Viacom typically posts full episodes of the shows, divided into clips.
The disappearance of the clips online suggested that Viacom might have been trying to deny DirecTV viewers any access to their Stewart/Colbert fix so that they would, to borrow Stewart's phrase, "rise up and demand" their networks back. Viacom networks include Comedy Central, which airs "The Daily Show" and "Colbert," as well as MTV, Nickelodeon and BET.
In a statement to TheWrap, Viacom said the clips came back online Tuesday not because of Stewart's comments, but because Colbert and Stewart returned from a two-week summer hiatus Monday.
DirecTV expressed pleasure at Viacom's decision to again post them online.
"We¹re glad they decided to do the right thing, not just for DirecTV customers, but for all fans," a DirecTV spokesman said.
(Last week, DirecTV had complained in a statement that Viacom was seeking more payments for its networks even though many of its shows are available free on the Internet.)
Both DirecTV and Viacom said they were in talks on Tuesday. Neither side addressed the issue of whether the clips returning online suggested a thaw in negotiations.
Viacom's explanation that it didn't post new clips during the hiatus made perfect sense -- it had no new episodes to post. But that explanation didn't explain why Viacom also pulled old clips.
It usually leaves up clips of past episodes when the "Daily Show" and "Colbert" are on break. So pulling the old clips last week -- after DirecTV cut Viacom networks -- looked like it might be a negotiating tactic.
Ironically, some viewers who wanted to watch Stewart blast Viacom and DirecTV online Tuesday first had to sit through a Viacom ad calling on customers to complain to DirecTV. (See screenshot, above.)
Story continues after video of Stewart's comments:
Viacom networks went dark for 20 million DirecTV customers last week as the two companies squabbled over fees.
DirecTV said Viacom is seeking a 30 percent increase -- equaling more than a billion dollars -- in the fees it receives from DirecTV. Those costs would likely be passed on to customers.
DirecTV said Viacom was pushing for the fee increase "despite the fact that the ratings for many of their main networks have plummeted and much of Viacom's programming can be seen for free online."
Viacom, meanwhile, complained in a blog post that DirecTV had "dropped the channels without giving Viacom advanced warning." It said it had proposed a "a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber."