Comedy Central's John Stewart and Stephen Colbert
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one corporation to dissolve the bands of finance that have connected it with another, and to assume a martyred position in the public eye, it is pretty much a given that each corporation will start running ads telling everyone who will listen why the other sucks.
Viacom and DirecTV are having a spat. Viacom, parent company of Nickeoldeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, TV Land and BET (among others), says DirecTV doesn't want to pay a reasonable rate increase after the end of a cushy seven-year contract; DirecTV says it's sick and tired of paying Viacom too much for channels nobody watches. Unspoken issues include ratings problems at Nickelodeon, an abundance of over-the-top content on Netflix and other digital video providers, presumably weakening Viacom's bargaining position, and an increasingly feisty attitude among MSOs who have long hated bundling and are finally pushing back.
However, the PR war between the two companies promises to be a painfully one-sided fight. In the DirecTV corner: Mike White, CEO of DirecTV, sitting reasonably on his desk and explaining the intricacies of carriage negotiation. In the Viacom corner: Jon Stewart and Snooki. The stakes are high—if either company feels too much pressure from consumers, it could affect negotiations. And make no mistake, negotiations are taking place, grandstanding aside. If the conflict isn't ironed out soon, DirecTV will see customers leave en masse, and Viacom, which is already struggling in the Nielsen ratings, will lose 17 million viewers. At stake is more than $1 billion in subscription fees.
Here are nine ads you'll be seeing a lot of if you're watching TV, surfing the Web, or reading the paper in the next few days as Viacom and DirecTV hammer out that final agreement.