NEW YORK — Viacom is ramping up its war with DirecTV over how much it is paid for shows including "The Daily Show" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." Unfortunately, its latest tactic is causing some collateral damage.
Viacom on Wednesday shut off access to full-length episodes on its own websites such as MTV.com and ComedyCentral.com to all visitors, even those who have no stake in the dispute.
The move was apparently in response to DirecTV telling its 20 million U.S. subscribers where on the Internet they could find programs they could no longer watch on TV.
Viacom's sites are now taken over by a video ad that informs visitors about the dispute and prompts people to call DirecTV to complain.
Some areas of the websites that once offered full episodes now say "Full episodes are currently unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience."
Certain episodes of Viacom programming, such as two-week-old episodes of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" were available online at Hulu. Others, like "Jersey Shore," were blocked.
DirecTV Group Inc. stopped carrying channels owned by Viacom Inc. late Tuesday because of a contract dispute. They include MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and Comedy Central.
DirecTV says Viacom was asking for a 30 percent increase in rates. Viacom says its latest agreement was made seven years ago and that DirecTV is now paying less than its competitors. The two companies blamed each other for the shutdown.
Many DirecTV subscribers took to microblog site Twitter to vent. "Viacom" and "Tosh," which references the Comedy Central show "Tosh.0," were trending topics on Twitter.
Courtney Mattison, a 22-year-old bank employee in Rutland, Vt., tweeted that the two companies were "acting like children over a business deal."
In an interview, she said she felt caught up in a dispute that shouldn't concern her, and it was costing her a couple hours of reality TV per night.
"I just want what I'm paying for, and if I can't get it from DirecTV, I'm happy to get it elsewhere," Mattison said.