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Viacom, Spectrum continue talks past 7 pm deadline-source

Oct 15 (Reuters) - Viacom Inc and cable operator Spectrum continued talks Sunday night as the 7 pm ET (2300 GMT) deadline on their programming agreement passed, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

As of 7 pm Sunday evening, Viacom's networks, which include Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, continued to be available to Spectrum's 16.6 million customers. Spectrum is owned by Charter Communications Inc..

However, Viacom continued to run messaging at the bottom of the screen urging viewers to call Spectrum to complain about a potential blackout, noting that the media company was not asking Spectrum for more money..

A Viacom spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Charter.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, who took on his role last year, has made improving relations with distributors a key part of his turnaround strategy for the company.

Like its peers, Viacom is struggling to keep viewers as more people watch shows on smartphones and tablets.

Six of the largest U.S pay-TV providers lost a total of 723,000 subscribers during the second quarter. Of that total, Charter reported 90,000 subscriber losses.

An agreement between the two companies would be "mutually beneficial," wrote Evercore ISI in an note Sunday.

Having Viacom content helps Charter add video subscribers amidst increasing competition from virtual streaming services, like Hulu and DirecTV Now, while Viacom is still heavily dependent on cable and satellite companies for distribution, according to Evercore ISI. (Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Mary Milliken)