Why is SpongeBob crying?

Viacom/MTV Networks and Time Warner Cable are in the midst of a TV-programming contract dispute, and Viacom has launched a marketing campaign against Time...

Viacom/MTV Networks and Time Warner Cable are in the midst of a TV-programming contract dispute, and Viacom has launched a marketing campaign against Time Warner. If the dispute isn't settled, MTV Networks, including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, will go off of the air for Time Warner Cable subscribers as of 12:01am January 1, the company has threatened.

Viacom has introduced ads (after the jump) that show characters including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants crying, asking "Why is SpongeBob crying?" The ads also encourage consumers to call Time Warner and ask to keep the networks. Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily reports that previous disputes like this have lasted only hours.

"We find it a shame that Time Warner Cable remains unreasonable at this time," Viacom said in a statement. "We hope its leadership will have a change of heart and will seek to negotiate a fair renewal agreement." The statement also outlined Viacom's requests for renewal: an increase in profits of less than 25 cents per month, per subscriber.

Time Warner's statement highlights that the company has successfully negotiated hundreds of programming agreements and that much of Viacom's programming is available for free online.

"MTV Networks wants our customers to pay millions more," Time Warner's statement said. "They are currently demanding price increases that are nearly triple the rate of increase under our current agreement. These increases would be excessive even in a strong economy, but given the current conditions, it’s simply not fair to our customers."

UPDATE: Time Warner Cable's president and CEO, Glenn Britt, released another statement about the situation: "Christmas is over, but Viacom is still playing Scrooge, threatening to pull its MTV Networks off of Time Warner Cable at midnight tonight unless we ask our customers to pay exorbitant price increases. Viacom claims their demands equate to 'pennies,' but that is misleading and insulting to our customers, from whom Viacom is trying to extort another $39 million annually – on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars our customers already pay to Viacom each year. That doesn’t sound like pennies to us."



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