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New Year blues: Time Warner might lose MTV, Comedy Central at 12:01 a.m.

Published: Wed, December 31, 2008 @ 9:26 a.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “SpongeBob SquarePants” may be getting squeezed off of Time Warner Cable.

Media giant Viacom Inc. said its Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and 16 other channels will go dark on Time Warner Cable Inc. at 12:01 a.m. Thursday if a new carriage fee deal is not agreed upon by then.

The impasse over carriage fee hikes would mean “SpongeBob” and other shows like “The Daily Show” will be cut off to 13 million subscribers, said spokesman Alex Dudley, a vice president at Time Warner Cable. The nation’s second-largest cable operator primarily serves customers in New York state, the Carolinas, Ohio, Southern California and Texas.

Viacom has asked for fee increases of between 22 percent and 36 percent per channel, an amount that could increase customers’ cable bills, Dudley said. Viacom spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew said the requested increase was in the very low double-digit percentage range.

“The issue is that they have asked for an exorbitant increase in their carriage fees and their network ratings are sagging,” he said. “Basically we’re trying to hold the line for our customer.”

Viacom said the increases would cost an extra 23 cents a month per subscriber — which works out to $35.9 million more in total. It said that Americans spend a fifth of their TV time watching Viacom shows but its fees make up less than 2.5 percent of the Time Warner cable bill.

“We make this request because Time Warner Cable has so greatly undervalued our channels for so long,” it said.

The channels that would be affected are: Comedy Central, CMT: Pure Country, Logo, Palladia, MTV, MTV 2, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, MTV Tr3s, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Nick 2, Nicktoons, Spike, The N, TV Land, VH1, VH1 Classic, and VH1 Soul.

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