Viacom to provide 'SpongeBob, other shows, to Sony TV service

Viacom to provide 'SpongeBob, other shows, to Sony TV service
Viacom has agreed to provide its 22 TV channels, including Nickelodeon, to Sony Corp.'s planned Internet-cloud-based television service. (Paramount Pictures)

Electronics giant Sony Corp. now has rights to nearly two dozen Viacom television networks -- including BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon -- to include in its upcoming cloud-based TV service.

The deal, announced Wednesday, represents a new chapter for Viacom. The New York media company said the Sony deal marked the first time that it was providing its networks to an Internet-based television and video-on-demand service.

“Given our young, tech-savvy audiences, our networks are essential for any new distribution platform, and we’re excited to be among the many programmers that will help power Sony’s new service and advance a new era for television," Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said in a statement.

Cable programmers, including Viacom, have had to walk a fine line when providing their valuable content, such as "SpongeBob SquarePants," to so-called over-the-top Internet based services. 

They do not want to alienate traditional pay-TV companies, such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, who pay billions of dollars a year for the rights to carry their channels. They also don't want to lose viewers from the traditional TV broadcast, jeopardizing an important stream of advertising revenue.

But, at the same time, Viacom recognizes that younger consumers are as likely to watch "SpongeBob," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "Teen Wolf," and other favorites on a Sony PlayStation or other Internet-connected device rather than sign up for an expensive pay-TV subscription.

Sony has been working to secure channels for its planned subscription service, which it plans to begin testing in the U.S. later this year.

Sony has not disclosed other programming partners for the service, so Viacom is likely the first major programmer to agree to provide its content.

Sony said the planned service -- which will offer live and video on demand TV programming -- will be compatible with an estimated 75 million Internet-enabled Sony devices already sold in the U.S.

"Our new cloud-based TV service will combine the live TV content people love most about cable with the dynamic experience they have come to expect from our network,"  Andrew House, group executive of Sony's Network Entertainment Business, said in the statement.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT