Comcast joins NBCU-News Corp.

Aboard as online venture's first nonequity partner

The forthcoming online joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. has signed its first nonequity content provider, Comcast Corp.

The cable operator said Monday that it will supply content, distribution and technology to the untitled venture, which is expected to launch in the summer. Comcast will deliver programming from its stable of cable channels, including Style, E! and G4, and extend its own sites, Comcast.net and Fancast.com, as points of distribution. Specific content has yet to be determined, a Comcast spokeswoman said.

In addition, Comcast will offer up a subsidiary, thePlatform, as a provider of video-distribution technology for the venture to use.

"We are pleased to have the best of NBC and Fox's TV content available to our customers on Comcast.net and Fancast.com," said Steve Burke, COO of Comcast Corp. and president of Comcast Cable. "Making TV content available on multiple devices will enable our customers to view their favorite shows on television, online and on VOD."

NBC Uni chief digital officer George Kliavkoff hopes Comcast will be the first of many such deals. He hasn't ruled out a deal with CBS Corp., which has yet to include the joint venture among its roster of distribution deals.

Exclusivity is not a requirement for a nonequity content contributor. "We think CBS has terrific content and can work as a nonexclusive nonequity partner," Kliavkoff said. "Exclusivity was only part of the discussions regarding the initial establishment of the joint venture months ago."

In addition, Kliavkoff said it is unlikely any new equity partners will join the joint venture before launch.

"It's possible, but there are probably very few companies that would make sense being an equity partner," he said. "We're so aligned with Fox in our belief system and already aligned in building a site, it would be difficult to do."

Comcast.net and Fancast.com will join a stable of distribution partners for the joint venture, including AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo! Comcast.net draws 15 million unique visitors per month.

In addition, Comcast.net and Fancast.com will get content from NBC Uni and News Corp. The Web sites already secured content from CBS Corp. as part of a broad slate of distribution deals that company announced last week.

Last week, Comcast announced its intent to launch Fancast.com in the summer. It's a new entertainment site that allows users to track their programming options across a range of media platforms. Comcast acquired online movie ticketing service Fandango last week, providing a key engine for the new site.
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