Viacom, TWC agree on last-minute deal

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After running past a midnight deadline and into 2009, Viacom and Time Warner Cable reached a tentative deal to keep MTV Networks' 19 channels on the MSO's 13.3 million households nationwide.

Although Viacom threatened to shut off the signal in Time Warner Cable's markets of New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Viacom granted a one-hour extension just before midnight EST on Wednesday, and the two sides said they reached an agreement in principle soon afterward. The move avoided the looming blackout of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, among other channels.

In a joint release, Viacom and Time Warner Cable said they expected to finalize the details during the next several days.

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

Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman stressed the companies' long relationship.

"We're happy to be renewing that partnership for the benefit of their customers and our loyal viewers," he said. "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."

The agreement followed a last-minute offer Wednesday by Time Warner Cable that was rejected by Viacom, which called it "a pittance."

Viacom was seeking about a 12% fee increase, or $39 million on top of the estimated $300 million it is paid by Time Warner Cable every year. Time Warner Cable said that it was no time to raise subscriber fees that would be passed on to consumers.

Viacom ran ads in newspapers Wednesday with "Dora the Explorer," a popular Nickelodeon cartoon, stating their case. (partialdiff)
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