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The week that started with Les Moonves and Phillipe Dauman kickboxing in Sumner Redstone's corporate steel cage will apparently end with Dauman retreating to his corner of the Viacom boardroom for medical attention. Or at least that's the impression we glean from today's gloom-and-doom survey of the Great Pay-Cable Cockfight of 2008, during which Paramount broke off from cousin network Showtime after failing to renegotiate an output deal for its titles. On their own now with partners Lionsgate and MGM/UA, even Viacom/Paramount flacks acknowledge finding little comfort in the TV wild:

The marketplace reaction to the fourth feevee was predictable: Who needs it?

"On its merits," says Rob Stengel, cable consultant and a principal of the Boston-based Continental Consulting Group, "I don't think you'll be able to find any distributors jumping up and down with eagerness to get their hands on another pay TV network."

Cable ops and satellite distributors "are crapping all over the idea in public," says a Viacom spokesman, "but privately, the early discussions are promising."

Oh, really? OK, then! Seeing as we apparently take everything publicists say at face value around here, we also pick up on what they don't say: specifically, as Variety's John Dempsey also notes today, the joint 'Mount/Lionsgate/MGM press release from last weekend bore no mention of a single cable company who had agreed to broadcast the channel. But seeing as that's the biggest public crap they could have taken so far — well, that, and not having jumped when Viacom said so — we figure the next round of battles can only go better for the dinged-up Dauman. We wish him luck!

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]