How Time Warner Cable and Viacom Took Their Contract War to Web Users

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Viacom and Time Warner Cable have resolved a bitter dispute that threatened to strip TWC customers of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and other MTV Networks channels. Such negotiations are usually handled behind closed doors, but in this case the companies went all out with ads, on-screen pleas and online rebuttals meant to alarm TV fans and rally them to one side or the other.

The LA Times described a newspaper ad featuring a crying Dora the Explorer, taken out by Viacom, as well as an on-screen alert, warning viewers they may lose their favorite shows. A :30 spot, available on YouTube, had a similar message.

Digital media were heavily leveraged by both parties. Over at TheRiver.net, Pamela Parker posted the above screen shot from MTV.com and described bombastic copy (since removed) on a Time Warner Web site at TWCFacts.com.

“MTV please don’t do it!” Viacom is asking “you” to pay “millions” more, the site says, adding, “Those demands would be unreasonable any time, but given the current economic conditions, they are outrageous now.”

It’s not clear to what extent either party used search marketing or e-mail to get their message out. If you noticed either over the past few days, feel free to post them here or email me and I’ll post them here.

Multiple reports have noted that the dispute points to how important affiliate fees have become as the recession takes an increasingly harsh toll on network operators’ ad revenues.

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