SpongeBob Is Still Here -- Stop Saying He Isn't (Updated)

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Why is Viacom paying for attack ads against cable operators that haven’t dropped MTV Networks?

It’s a little disconcerting to see a full-page ad in my home-delivered New York Times lambasting Time Warner Cable for taking SpongeBob off the air. My remote tells me he’s presumably still on because the many MTV Networks outlets that were there on New Year’s Eve are still on my Time Warner Cable service. And when I heard the radio ad on WFAN last night taking Cablevision to task for removing SpongeBob I checked the Web and then checked with our intrepid Todd Spangler to find out if that was the case. Um, no, he said, as he was watching Nickelodeon with his kids this morning. (UPDATE: MTVN says it didn’t run any radio ads attacking Cablevision, and it being radio I didn’t DVR it, so I guess I heard a TWC attack ad instead.)

Are newspaper and radio ads such a huge commitment that they can’t be changed when circumstances change? The Times has a story today about the Time Warner-Viacom settlement that we (Todd) posted yesterday. (We, by the way, weren’t part of the Viacom corporate communications outreach on Tuesday that had prominent stories about the stories make their way into the Times and Wall Street Journal, and maybe other outlets, and Multichannel News had an early production deadline.)

Couldn’t Viacom have pulled the attack ads? Couldn’t it have had a "thank you" ad ready in case of a settlement, one thanking cable operators for keeping MTVN’s myriad channels on the air, for a presumably higher license fee?

Or was it considered a worthwhile corporate expenditure (presumably costing thousands of dollars) to blast affiliates so said affiliates will remember the next time a deadline approaches that they can expect their customers to hear radio ads promoting Web sites for DirecTV and FiOS?

Seems like a bad business practice either way.

UPDATE: As Todd has posted, Viacom today apologized for being unable to pull the ads because of holiday publication schedules, the last-minute-ness of the deal, etc. Seems like if those things are so out of Viacom’s control it ought to resist placing them until the channels are really off the air. Also we’re checking on whether I was having audio hallucinations in regard that radio ad I thought was against Cablevision. UPDATE: MTV says I heard it wrong.

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