Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, and Walt Disney Co on Wednesday said they had reached a comprehensive 10-year programming carriage deal for TV, Web and handheld devices.
The agreement covers Disney's various networks including ABC and ESPN, and will allow Comcast's Xfinity TV customers to watch those networks live or on-demand on multiple devices.
The deal gives a big boost to the cable TV industry's push for programmers and distributors to reach agreements that will enable paying subscribers to watch their favorite shows anytime. Distributors have pushed back over whether they should pay extra so their subscribers can watch the shows online or on other devices.
"There is incentive for the content companies and cable operators to be in all the screens," said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce. "And ESPN in particular has the content that lends itself to multiple screens quite well - as well as monetizing it through various forms of advertising."
Also included in the deal is a broadcast retransmission agreement for ABC's seven broadcast stations and Comcast will launch Disney Junior - a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children. Comcast will also provide its Xfinity customers with access to live Disney networks. In all, the agreement covers more than 70 services.
"Given the scope of assets Comcast and Disney/ABC/ESPN are making available to consumers, this agreement is unprecedented in our industry," said ESPN Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer. "It reinforces the value of the multichannel subscription and takes full advantage of new technologies, which serve all of our viewers."