Agreement secures carriage for ABC O&Os and Disney cable channels. Comcast acquires Disney’s minority Interest in E! Networks for $1.2 billion. Select ABC primetime series, cable programming and Disney Movies added to Comcast On Demand lineup.
Comcast Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday afternoon that they have entered into long-term comprehensive distribution agreements that will extend their relationship into the next decade for the 10 ABC-owned broadcast television stations and a broad array of Disney’s leading networks and services, including Disney Channel, ABC Family, Toon Disney, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN HD and increased carriage of SOAPnet. Additionally Comcast will launch ESPN Deportes, a stand-alone Spanish language sports network, and the companies formalized their ESPN2 HD agreement.
In addition, Comcast has acquired Disney’s 39.5% interest in E! Networks. Following today’s acquisition, E! Networks, which includes E! Entertainment Television and Style Network, is now wholly owned by Comcast. The purchase price for the 39.5% stake was $1.23 billion.
The companies have also agreed to add primetime television programs, cable network shows and Disney movies to Comcast’s signature On Demand service. Marking the first time ABC broadcast programs will be available on video on demand (VOD) by any cable company, several ABC primetime series will be offered by Comcast in ABC-owned television station markets. The companies also said they will work together to make promotional content from the Disney-ABC Television Group available on Comcast’s leading broadband portal, www.comcast.
“This agreement reflects our ability to distribute content on multiple platforms and signals another first for Comcast and Disney as we continue to explore the evolving possibilities of digital technology. We could not have gotten this deal done without Bob Iger’s leadership and vision. Putting Disney, ESPN and ABC’s extremely popular content on Comcast VOD is a watershed event for both of our companies,” said Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast. “This is the first cable on-demand agreement for hit ABC primetime broadcast programs like Desperate Housewives and Lost and, when combined with Disney movies and other ABC/Disney/ESPN television programs, gives Comcast access to the most Disney content available.”
Robert A. Iger, Disney president and CEO, commented: “This is one of the broadest distribution agreements in the history of our company. Disney’s great brands and great content combined with Comcast’s leading distribution platforms provide an incredibly compelling consumer experience in sports, family, news and entertainment. We look forward to working with Brian and Steve Burke on a range of future projects as technology continues to evolve.”
ABC Network primetime and ABC News programs will be available free to Comcast’s digital customers in the following markets served by ABC-owned stations: New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), Chicago (WLS), San Francisco (KGO), Houston (KTRK), Fresno, Calif. (KFSN) and Flint, Mich. (WJRT). Beginning with the fall 2007 season, on-demand episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost and two new yet-to-be determined primetime series will be available the day after their network broadcast to Comcast consumers in the same owned-station markets. Desperate Housewives and Lost also will be available in HD VOD for Comcast customers with HD service. Also available in the same markets will be ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson, Nightline and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Under the agreement, Comcast also plans to add certain shows from Disney Channel, SOAPnet, Toon Disney and ESPN libraries to Comcast’s On Demand lineup in markets where those channels are offered.
Under the movie VOD agreement, Comcast Digital Cable customers will be able to order movies newly released on VOD from Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Miramax for $3.99 each, while library titles will be available for $2.99 each. Some of the new release titles available on Comcast On Demand beginning in 2007 include Pirates of the Caribbean 2, The Santa Clause 3, Invincible and The Guardian.
The select television programming and movies from Disney will join Comcast’s library of more than 8,000 On Demand programs per month, including hundreds of hit and classic movies, music videos and specials, kids’ shows, sports highlights, news and informational programs. With On Demand, customers can play, fast-forward, rewind, pause and restart their choices as many times as they want for up to 24 hours after being selected.