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In 1985, Warner Communications opted to buy out American Express's stake in Warner Amex, transforming Warner Amex into Warner Cable Corporation, which later became Time Warner Cable after the 1990 merger with Time, Inc. Taking a cue from Turner Communications' Superstation TBS and the popular USA Network, Warner used the facilities of MTV Networks to create The Warner Bros. Channel, which airs sporting events, library programming, and films from the Warner Bros. library. Nickelodeon would be fully embraced by Warner Bros., who provides sitcoms and animation to the network, as well as continuing to create original programming, including game shows and original animation projects. The first Nicktoons would be a pair of programs created in-house at the resurrected Warner Bros. Animation, a new series featuring a new generation of Looney Tunes characters called Tiny Toon Adventures and a series based on the popular Batman movie and comic franchise. MTV would benefit from having the Warner Music Group as a corporate cousin, by being the exclusive home of videos from Warner Music artists like Madonna.

An MTV spinoff network would be created in 1987 dedicated to a particular genre of music. Unlike MTV, it would consist of all videos, all the time.

After Time Inc. buys a significant stake in Warner Communications in 1990, the newly merged Time Warner creates two definative cable units, Time Warner Network Group, which contains MTV, Nickelodeon, MTV2: Video Hits, and The Warner Bros. Channel, and Home Box Office, Inc., which contains HBO and Cinemax. A premium music channel, MTV Unfiltered, is created under the direction of both TWNG and HBO with a lineup of concerts, uncut videos, and more experimental programming. Nickelodeon spins off an all-animation channel by 1994, with original, acquired, and library titles as a part of the network's programming and is the first legitimate competitor to Turner's Cartoon Network. Though an outright merger with Turner sounds tempting, Time Warner decides not to buy the entertainment giant. Despite having successes throughout broadcast television and offers from independent affiliate groups like Tribune, ACME, and Sinclair, Time Warner decides not to invest in a new broadcast network.

By 1999, Nickelodeon's 20th anniversary, Nickelodeon is the #1 network in all of cable while The Warner Bros. Channel is a strong #2. In fact, it's largely because of Nickelodeon that the fortunes of Time Warner are strong, so strong that they buy a controlling stake in a popular internet portal, America OnLine to compete against the likes of News Corp, Disney, and Universal.

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