Just received a statement from Viacom that asserts that negotiations for a new licensing deal with Time Warner cable have broken down, with just more than 24 hours until 2009 and the possibility that cable subscribers in New York City, Los Angeles, Orange County (Calif.), Raleigh, N.C., and elsewhere around the country will not have Comedy Central — or any of the other Viacom cable channels such as VH1, MTV, Nickelodeon and more than a dozen others. DEVELOPING…

UPDATED: This sort of wrangling between cable operators and networks happens from time to time, with contract differences resolved either at the last minute, or after a day of both sides calling each other's bluffs. Time Warner, for its part, is playing hardball, with a spokesman telling the Los Angeles Times tonight that Viacom's demands are out of line not only because of the nation's economic recession, but also because the TV conglomerate gives away much of its content online for free. And I quote: "They are not charging people more for that," Time Warner's Dudley said. "We will just tell our customers how to hook up their PCs to their television sets so they can watch it online for free." Woah.

UPDATED IN 2009: Comedy Central works on my TV, so it appears we have a resolution. As expected.

Here is the statement from Viacom:

This move by Time Warner Cable to force such channels as Nickelodeon, COMEDY CENTRAL and MTV off the air is another example of a cable company overreaching for profit at the expense of its viewers.

The renewal we are seeking is reasonable and modest relative to the profits TWC enjoys from our networks. We have asked for an increase of less than 25 cents per month, per subscriber, which adds up to less than a penny per day for all 19 of MTV Networks’ channels.

We make this request because TWC has so greatly undervalued our channels for so long. Americans spend more than 20% of their TV viewing time watching our networks, yet our fees amount to less than 2.5% of what Time Warner generates from their average customer.

Throughout the country, we have negotiated equitable license agreement renewals, or are in the final stages of renewals, with virtually every cable and satellite carrier. Nevertheless, Time Warner Cable has dismissed our efforts at a fair compromise and has effectively chosen to deny its customers some of the most popular TV shows on the air.

As a result, we are sorry to say that for Time Warner Cable customers our networks will go dark as of 12:01 on January 1st , denying Time Warner customers shows like Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and The Hills.

Ultimately, however, if Nickelodeon, COMEDY CENTRAL, MTV and the rest of our programming is discontinued – over less than a penny per day – we believe viewers will see this behavior by their cable company as outrageous.   Time Warner Cable subscribers who are being handed a January 1st $3 monthly increase in Raleigh, Orange County, Los Angeles, and New York City are simultaneously facing the removal of beloved shows across 19 channels.

We find it a shame that Time Warner Cable remains unreasonable at this time. We hope its leadership will have a change of heart and will seek to negotiate a fair renewal agreement.