Viacom wants Time Warner Cable to pay more for its channels, like MTV and Comedy Central. TWC doesn't want to pay. So on Jan. 1, they could all go away for TWC subscribers.
Viacom's argument is that their channels "provide 20 percent of their audience" yet they only "receive about 2.5 percent of the fees Time Warner pays," so they're asking for what amounts to a rate increase of 23 cents per subscriber. Time Warner says that "the root of this is that the advertising market has gone soft and Viacom is desperate" and it's no time to be making people pay more for TV.
Viacom's PR campaign, so far, is decidedly brilliant: They've taken out full page ads in the Times and other papers today with characters like Dora the Explorer crying because children can't watch her starting tomorrow. Time Warner's response is pretty savvy too. Time Warner spokesman Alexander Dudley said that they'll "be telling our customers exactly where they can go to see these programs online...We’ll also be telling them how they can hook up their PCs to a television set.”
That's right—the cable company will be telling people to use Hulu. That's a first. True, they're still doing it over Time Warner's pipes, but it's pretty shocking coming from a cable company/ISP, who, like every other TV/ISP service provider, has traditionally pushed people in various ways to use the internet less and their TV services more. In fact, Time Warner has squawked before that they hate the amount of content—like The Hills and The Daily Show, the very programs at issue here—that broadcasters are putting online for free. Now they're sending people to them.
This is also the same Time Warner that's capping the amount of data people can use a month in certain markets, which, survey says, is a network management practice likely to spread—in large part due to the amount of strain on broadband networks coming from streaming video now.