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MTV, Comedy Central, other Viacom channels go dark for DirecTV

It's unclear how long the blackout -- which hits more than 20 million customers -- might last after DirecTV and Viacom fail to come to terms on distribution fees.

DirecTV and Viacom failed to reach a new deal on programming fees, resulting in a blackout of many popular cable networks, including MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.

Jon Stewart and his "The Daily Show" aren't available to DirecTV customers anymore. Comedy Central

The blackout is the result of the latest dispute between entertainment companies and the distributors, which include cable, telecom, and satellite TV providers. There have been an increasing amount of disagreements over how much distributors have to pay to carry the various networks, resulting in public spats such as this.

Viacom confirmed the blackout on its blog earlier today.

"We are deeply disappointed that DirecTV dropped Viacom's channels before our midnight deadline this evening, severing our connection with its nearly 20 million subscribers nationwide," the company said. "We proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day, per subscriber, and we remained willing to negotiate that deal right up to this evening's deadline. However, DirecTV refused to engage in meaningful conversation."

CNET has contacted DirecTV for comment, and we'll update the story once we get a response. The company previously put up its own Web site on which CEO Mike White blamed the dispute on Viacom's attempt to charge more for content people already watch.

It's unclear how long the blackout might last. Analysts have gone back and forth, with some believing DirecTV will inevitably succumb to Viacom's demand, and others questioning the value of Viacom's programming.

Beyond MTV and Comedy Central, the current dispute leaves DirecTV subscribers without 24 other channels, including Nickelodeon, BET, VH1, Spike TV, TV Land, and CMT.

Disputes such as this have occurred in the past, although perhaps not at this magnitude. Earlier this year, Cablevision and MSG Network finally settled a programming fee spat that brought back Knicks games during the height of "Linsanity."