Comcast, Dis ink sweeping carriage deal

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The Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp. have reached a wide-ranging carriage deal that will keep programming from ABC to SoapNet on multiple platforms, the companies said Tuesday.

The long-awaited deal — years in the making — will cover retransmission consent for ABC's 10 owned-and-operated stations as well as carriage of 11 cable networks and, in a first for Disney, placement of broadcast series on video-on-demand. Financial terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed, though the pact is believed to cover a range of multibillion-dollar assets.

"This is one of the broadest distribution agreements in the history of our company," Disney president and CEO Robert Iger said.

"Putting Disney, ESPN and ABC's extremely popular content on Comcast VOD is a watershed event for both of our companies," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said. "We could not have gotten this deal done without Bob Iger's leadership and vision."

Beginning next fall, "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and two shows to be named later will be offered on Comcast VOD, which already boasts series from NBC and CBS. In addition, ABC News and cable programming is expected to join the cable operator's VOD platform.

Select movie titles also will be offered on VOD from Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Studios and Touchstone.

The deal also finalizes the sale of Disney's 39.5% stake in E! Networks to Comcast, which paid $1.23 billion to get full control of the cable programmer.

Among the cable assets that had their carriage renewed are ESPN, which is far and away the most expensive cable channel in the country, and SoapNet, which will get a significant distribution gain as part of the deal. Comcast also will launch ESPN Deportes and ESPN2HD, the latter channel already having been deployed in select Comcast markets.

Comcast's VOD content from ABC will only be available in O&O markets, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.
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