Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Is What It Sounds Like When The Sponge Cries

In Fee Battle With Time Warner, Viacom Enlists Cartoons (WSJ-sub req):

Tapping emotional images such as a weeping Dora the Explorer and a distraught SpongeBob, Viacom Inc. is launching a marketing blitz Wednesday aimed at demonizing Time Warner Cable over a television-programming contract dispute.

Barring a last-minute settlement on fees, Viacom's cable channels -- including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central -- will disappear from Time Warner Cable at midnight Wednesday. While programmers and operators often battle fiercely over contract renewals, Viacom's campaign is notable in its willingness to pull children into the debate.

One ad shows the cartoon Dora in tears with the words, "Why is Dora crying?" The ad goes on to explain: "Time Warner Cable has taken 19 of your favorite channels off the air!" and suggests viewers call a Time Warner Cable number to demand that the cable operator restore Nickelodeon and its siblings. That ad is paired with another suggesting that viewers can get Dora back by signing up to one of Time Warner Cable's rivals such as DirecTV or Verizon Communications. In another, the cartoon character SpongeBob is said to be "freaking out."

This morning, Nikelodeon has been running a continuous scroll warning of the channel's imminent disappearance for Time Warner customers and urging them to call their cable operator to avoid this horrible fate. It's a clever ploy by Nik to go after one of parent's critical pain points: the shows their children love to watch. All I have to say is thank God we have Comcast. Don't get a chance to say that too often.

Speaking of children's television, is there a creepier show on the air today than Playhouse Disney's The Doodlebops? It's disturbing on so many levels with that '70s Sid and Marty Kroft psychedelic stoner vibe. Thanks Canada.


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