Comcast, NBC Uni sign deal with IFTA

Arrangement marks commitment to indie produced content

NEW YORK -- Comcast and NBC Universal have signed an agreement with IFTA, expressing a commitment to independently produced content.

The four-year arrangement, outlined in an FCC filing Monday, is the latest concession by the cable giant and the entertainment company as they look for regulatory approval of their planned combination. But it stays away from setting a target percentage or hour mark for the amount of indie-supplied programming like some have pushed for.

The agreement covers scripted and reality TV shows at NBC Uni networks and on Comcast VOD. It includes development funds and the promise of new media distribution on Comcast platforms.

Among key concession in the agreement, NBC Uni will hold an annual development meeting with indie producers and commit $1 million to developing indie content on its broadcast network and $500,000 to indie cable network content. The company will also take at least 15 cable and at leat 20 network pitches each year from indies. Plus, the company's cable channels will consider buying miniseries and movies of the week from indies at AFM and other times/locations.

"Comcast and NBCU chose to come to IFTA with this proposal, which we believe has the potential to create business opportunities for independent producers that have long wanted to produce for television in the United States again," said IFTA president-CEO Jean Prewitt. "This agreement is the result of Congress' focus on the potential vulnerabilities of independents in this merger and the need to ensure that there are real opportunities for independent producers on the Comcast/NBC platforms."

While she acknowledged that there are "no guarantees attached to this agreement," Prewitt said, "we are hopeful it will provide solid opportunities for independent producers and NBCU/Comcast to work together in the future, and that other vertically integrated media companies will also embrace it."

IFTA chairman Lloyd Kaufman argued that the agreement "recognizes the importance of independent production to traditional and new media."