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Cable TV Channels May Go Dark Tomorrow

December 31st, 2008 by Ryan Ozawa · 6 Comments · Business, Hawaii, Television

Hawaii customers of Oceanic Time Warner will lose several television channels tomorrow unless a last-minute deal is struck between Time Warner and Viacom.

Viacom owns several popular basic cable channels carried by Oceanic, including Comedy Central, music channels MTV and VH1, kids channels Nickleodeon and Noggin, Spike, and TV Land. Oceanic’s digital lineup includes additional Viacom properties, such as additional MTV and VH1 channels and CMT.

Nationally, the contract dispute affects some 13 million cable subscribers.

Time Warner claims Viacom is trying to boost its fees by up to 36 percent, increasing the cost of carrying Viacom channels by $39 million. It says it’s standing up for its customers, who would have to end up footing the bill.

Viacom, however, says the increases are not as big as Time Warner claims, and that Time Warner has consistently undervalued its content. Viacom channels draw five percent of all cable viewers’ eyeballs, the company says, but their fees add up to less than three percent of customers’ bills.

Fortunately, for those addicted to “The Daily Show” or “Spongebob Squarepants,” Viacom makes many of its channels’ programming available online. But as the middle man, cable television providers will bear the brunt of customers’ ire.

Viacom is only happy to fan the flames. A full-page newspaper ad showed cartoon character Dora the Explorer crying. And its channels now feature a text crawl along the bottom of the screen telling viewers: “You can stop this!” How? By calling Time Warner, of course, at 1-800-762-3786.

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