SpongeBob Saved: Viacom, Time Warner Cable Settle Dispute

Nasty Public Spat Over Rights Fees Comes to Close

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The nasty public dispute over rates fees between Time Warner Cable and Viacom over the New Year's Eve holiday has been settled. The parties reached an agreement in principle to renew carriage of Viacom's MTV Networks, which include Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central shortly after the contract's midnight deadline on Jan. 1.

The companies expect the final terms of the agreement over the course of the weekend. Viacom said yesterday it was asking for a 12% increase in annual subscriber fees, or 23 cents per month.

Viacom had threatened to block its programming to subscribers of all 13 Time Warner Cable markets on TV and online, airing banners across the bottom of the screen to alert viewers of the possible change -- and threatening that popular Nick characters like SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer would go away if an agreement was not reached.

"We are pleased that our customers will continue to be able to watch the programming they enjoy on MTV Networks," Glenn Britt, President-CEO of Time Warner Cable, said in a statement. "We are sorry they had to endure a day of public disagreement as we worked through this negotiation." 

Philippe Dauman, President-CEO of Viacom said, "We've been partners with Time Warner Cable for a long time, and we're happy to be renewing that partnership for the benefit of their customers and our loyal viewers.  It's gratifying that we could reach an agreement that benefits not only our audiences but that is also in the best interest of both of our companies."

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