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Viacom threatens to yank programming off Time Warner Cable systems

"Spongebob Squarepants," "Dora the Explorer" and Jon Stewart soon might be pulled off Time Warner Cable systems in Los Angeles and around the country if the cable operator and Viacom Inc. cannot reach a new contract before midnight tomorrow. The move could knock Viacom's cable channels, which include Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central off nearly 2 million households in Los Angeles.

Dauman"We've been attempting to negotiate in good faith but they seem to taken it to the brink. Unfortunately, we are now at an impasse," said Philippe Dauman, chief executive of Viacom Inc.  "It's unfortunate for all of our viewers should they lose the ability to watch our programming."

Viacom's license agreement with Time Warner Cable, which serves 12.3 million homes in the U.S., is set to expire at midnight Wednesday. If no deal is reached,  Time Warner must take the Viacom channels off its cable systems and use alternative programming instead.

Gleenbritt_2 "Advertising revenue stinks so they are looking to stick our customers for the difference," said Alex Dudley, Time Warner Cable spokesman. "They are holding our customers hostage for a bunch of networks with sagging ratings and only one or two good channels. We have to hold the line for our customers."

Viacom said that it is asking for an increase of about 25 cents per month for the package of channels, which comes to about $3 a year per customer. Time Warner said that could trigger cable networks to demand higher fees as well, which ultimately could add as much $30 a year to a subscribers' bill.

This wouldn't be the first time that a cable channel has gone dark. It is not unusual for cable networks and cable system operators to pull or block programming during difficult negotiations. In 2004, for example, Viacom's cable channels disappeared from EchoStar's Dish Network for two days while both sides quarelled over the terms of a new contract. Earlier, Time Warner blocked ABC from its cable systems in New York during a breakdown in contract negotiations with parent company Disney involving carriage of its cable networks such as the Disney Channel and Toon Disney.

But the high-stakes dispute could prove to be different this time around because much of Viacom's programming, including Comedy Central's John Stewart and Steven Colbert, is now available free online. Moreover, Viacom no longer owns CBS, so it can't threaten to pull the network off cable systems on the eve of NFL playoffs, as leverage in negotiations. The hard-nosed tactics also come at a time when Viacom's stock is trading at historic lows and the company's controlling shareholder, Sumner Redstone, is facing hard choices in refinacing the debt of his holding company, National Amusements Inc.

-- Meg James

Photos: Left: Philippe Dauman, chief executive, Viacom Inc. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images); Right: Glenn Britt, chief executive, Time Warner Cable (Seth Wenig/AP)

 
Comments () | Archives (86)

Oh man, this is gonna be interesting. I really don't want to see those channels disappear from my lineup. Maybe if they replaced them with GSN, everyone would be happy. ^_^

And good ridance to all those terrible networks. I'm tired of paying for cable content I don't watch. If people want the garbage produced by Viacom (MTV, VH1, BET, Nick etc), they should pay for it separately. Between these trash networks and all the useless sports on TV, I and other like-minded intellectuals are forced to pay much more for cable and satellite service than what we consume. Let's move toward ala carte programming.

My children, ages four and seven, enjoy watching Noggin and have benefitted a great deal from the material on these programs. They would be devastated if they were no longer able to watch their favorite shows any longer and it would be impossible to explain the reasoning behind this to them. There are so very few quality children's programs and channels where you can find programs that are appropriate for children. Please don't take these channels away from our families that really need them.

I think Viacam is wrong and time Warner is getting all the bad press. Viacom is spening money on full page ads to get viewers to call Time Warner. Is this how they spend their money? Cable bills are too high as it is. We can live without Viacam channels

Viacom must really think we are idiots. For those not in the know...and I know....they do this every year. Quite soon you will get a notice saying that "due to increasing "this or that"or due to "Viacoms threat to reduce cable channels", Time Warner Cable will be increasing your bill. We have put up the good fight and will be retaining these channels. And OH...we will not listen to you when you tell us what new channels you want! So there...take that!

The idiots at Time Warner Cable gave me a number to call to stop the channels from being canned. I called, and the line's always busy. Seems like this problem could be over soon, hopefully since Viacom is going to piss off many cable customers like myself.

This is ridiculous. TWC has a track record for negotiating fair pricing when the chips are down. This time around, Viacom is swinging for the fences and trying ever trick in the book to pressure the cable operator to cave in to their demands. Front page articles in newpapers and crawls at the bottom of the screen are urging viewers to pressure the operator. This would include TWC, COX, Dish to name a few.

I am a believer in the fair market, but their media assault and their tactics are equal to a rabid dog needing its lease tightened. Cable operators have always been able to negotiate some sort of compromise, however, why is this time different? I see Viacom kicking and screaming like a little girl. I pray none of the cable operators in the industry cave in.

All of the operators need to band together and boycott Viacom altogether. With no subscribers, viacom is nothing and the stock will drop and id pray for bankruptcy. Some like TW could buy them, pennies on the dollar and absorb them into the Time Warner family of products.

You could also boycott them, short the shock and burn then just for trying this. Dont bite the hand that feeds you. This is how I would reply back to Viacom. My daughter loves Noggin but I wont cave in to BS like this. DVD FTW.

Viacom needs to be taught a lesson.

I have Time Warner for my cable company, but I also have a 4 year old and 3 year old. The only tv the get to watch is Noggin which is part of Nick and involved in this mess. As a customer I would GLADLY pay 23 cents for these channels. I think it is wrong of Time Warner not to give their customers more than one day's notice about this issue. If they would have done that I would be ringing in the new year with a different television provider instead of a last mintue dash to see what satalite has to offer.=O

Wow, I guess I was naive to think that Fisher Broadcasting and Dish Network's disagreement, and the subsequent lost of KOMO 4 from my lineup was the end of the troubles facing us as consumers. However last night as I read the banner scrolling across the bottom of something I was watching on Spike TV, and a call I made to Dish Network it only confirmed what I feared. Not that I would lose these channels, but rather that the companies out there don't care about the end users anymore. Now I suppose in all fairness, they probably have never cared about the customers that they are supposed to be serving. Oh well, at midnight tonight, if I loser the so called 18 channels from Viacom, Time Warner or whoever owns them, I will be making a call to Dish for a disconnect. They want to play hardball? Bring it bitches. I'll find something else to do. Oh yea I got Netflix streaming through XBOX now!!! It was nice knowing you Dish, and all your providers........NOT!

Good riddance to those networks and shows. Who cares? I'd rather lose some bad channels like MTV than end up paying more for cable. The shows on those networks are junk.

DON'T GET RID OF THE TV CHANNELS JUST SO YOU CAN SAVE A BUCK, OR IN THIS CASE, ONLY PENNIES A DAY. I MAY NOT KNOW THE TOTAL COST YOU MIGHT "SAVE", BUT I KNOW HOW MUCH I PAY FOR CABLE! THIS WHOLE THING IS TOTALLY RIDICULOUS. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO THE AMERICAN CONSUMERS TO PROVIDE THE CHANNELS WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING FOR YEARS AND SHELLING OUT OUR HARD EARNED MONEY TO HAVE. AS A BIG CORPORATION, YOU HAVE TONS OF SURPLUS CASH. HARD WORKING AMERICANS ARE DOING WITHOUT MORE AND MORE EVERYDAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. DON'T TAKE THESE CHANNELS AWAY. 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On the Viacom channels they're putting out TMC's phone number to call and complain. But, does anybody know the number to Viacom? I'd rather call them and complain.

I'll pay the extra 3$ a year......but only if Viacom promises to add 4 more MTVs that have nothing to do with music. Good riddance. Sagging ratings, dropping advo revenue, it is high time the supercorps reap what they sew. Asking for more money while thier top level execs are walking around with 50+ million$ salaries.. http://www.thecorporatecounsel.net/blog/archive/001149.html

switch to DIRECtv

If my favorate channels are removed, which ARE on the list....I will stop cable immediately!!

I would be more than happy to lose Viacom's idiotic programming from my Time Warner bill. I am truly paying for something I don't want right now.

I just went through the Viacom's website and realized they produce total garbage. If I have to lose the Neopets Channel, then so be it.

If my bill went down as a result, I'd be thrilled.

WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!! THESE ARE REALLY GOOD CHANNELS I MUST SWITCH TO NEW CABLE

If I lose the Noggin channel I'm dumping TWC, it's phone service and internet and going with satalite, cell phones and DSL. I have a 2 year old and we essentially pay $70 a month for her to watch Noggin.

Dora the Explorer might be pulled? Woo hoo1111 Go for it!! That's one of the most annoying cartoons ever!

I don't see the issue with the bill going up such a small amount. This is ridiculous and if the channels aren't restored by New Year's I'm canceling our cable. We only got it so we could watch the-n anyway and that channel is off air now. BTW, Thanks Time Warner for not sending us a notice if I hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night out TV would have been burned in due to the fact that the program on the-n froze up as they were turning the station off! GRRRRR! I know that there are plenty of people who agree, raise our bill by a few dollars but don't take away the best channels on air!

I don't see the issue with the bill going up such a small amount. This is ridiculous and if the channels aren't restored by New Year's I'm canceling our cable. We only got it so we could watch the-n anyway and that channel is off air now. BTW, Thanks Time Warner for not sending us a notice if I hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night out TV would have been burned in due to the fact that the program on the-n froze up as they were turning the station off! GRRRRR! I know that there are plenty of people who agree, raise our bill by a few dollars but don't take away the best channels on air!

Well I have to say that Cable already costs alot... and that extra they want to charge us is just the thing that would cause alot of people to cancel cable or go to a standard which is just local channels.. My self I have lost my job and I already cut my cable down... So we all are hurting... Wouldnt some money be beter than no Money!! And personaly I am starting to get tired of lossing cable channels and still having to pay the same price!!

wow...just one more reason to dump time warner cable and dislike viacom.

see you later TWC, you've screwed up for the last time.

Nice move TWC! You mean you are going to help save the same customers a quarter that you just LAID OUT with $30 more per month in unexplained increased...that were later explained as expired promotional rates no longer being in effect....So, you are going to take Spike TV and the UFC and then you will let them pull Nick off for my kids....THANKS AGAIN TWC!!! EAT THE DAMNED .25 CENTS YOU GREEDY BASTARDS!

This really disappoints me. Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and many other channels are basically the ONLY reason I have cable. I could easily watch some of the programs on their specific websites (youtube included), but it's nice not to have to stare at a computer screen for more than my work day's hours. I hope this comes to a successful draw so I can go back to enjoying my favorite programs. I already have enough stress in my life, I don't want to be stressing over my tv programs as well...

 
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