What did you watch on TV last night? If you have DirecTV, you weren't watching Comedy Central. Or MTV. Or Nickelodeon.

This week, DirecTV dropped several big-name television channels owned by Viacom, including Nickelodeon, VH1, MTV and Comedy Central, due to contract disputes between the two companies. Now, Viacom has also pulled some of their stations' popular programming off of their free-to-view website, leaving plenty of TV viewers "in the dark"

DirecTV customers went without Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and a dozen other cable channels owned by Viacom on Wednesday at the start of an unusually widespread channel blackout that drew complaints from would-be viewers across the United States.

The two companies blamed each other for the blackout, which began around midnight as a result of a dispute over a new carriage contract for the Viacom-owned channels. About 20 million households are affected, representing one-fifth of all the nation’s subscribers to cable or satellite television service.

DirecTV had recommended that its customers watch Viacom-owned shows via the Internet during the TV blackout, but Viacom took action to make that more difficult Wednesday afternoon — not just for DirecTV customers, but for all Internet users. The company took episodes of “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and some other popular shows off its Web sites.

DirecTV is not the only satellite company drawing the ire of TV fans.  Back in June, Dish Network dropped fan favorite channel AMC in order to rid themselves of other low-rating channels like IFC and WE TV.

Not surprisingly, both companies are blaming each other for the problem, and try to incite viewers against the other. Viacom, in particular, has taken to using Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer and Spongebob Sqaurepants to try and shame DirecTV for taking away beloved children's programming. But really, the only people who lose in these contract disputes are the viewers. It's disappointing. And it''s also why I'm sticking with cable.

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