Viacom and Charter have reached a tentative agreement for a new carriage pact, averting a blackout of the programmer’s 23 channels in the cable operator’s lineup.

The two companies last night issued a statement announcing the agreement “in principle.”

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“Viacom and Spectrum have reached an agreement in principle. Spectrum subscribers will continue to have access to Viacom’s networks, without disruption, while we finalize terms,” the statement reads.

The previous carriage pact was set to expire last Sunday, but the two companies agreed to a short-term extension to continue negotiating. Now it appears that a long-term pact is in the offering.

However, what’s not clear is whether Charter will be permitted to include some of Viacom’s 23 channels in more expensive programming packages, or not carry them at all.

In the past year, since assuming control of Time Warner Cable, the cable operator has moved some channels to higher tiers to reduce acquisition costs. (When it does this, Charter has to pay the programmer less in fees because fewer people watch the channels via the more expensive plans.)

Viacom owns several popular channels such as MTV and Comedy Central that Charter would undoubtedly want to include in lower-tier plans. But the cable operator might be inclined to group others such as MTV Classic and even VH1 in the more costly packages.

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— Phillip Swann