SNL Kagan analysts are predicting that carriage agreements will split into two different types over the coming years.
The first type is exemplified by the quiet pact inked by Comcast and Scripps during the last week—a traditional agreement made notable by its inclusion of over-the-top content on Comcast's Xfinity service, a high watermark among MSO-created on-demand interfaces. The agreement was cordial and genially celebrated by both sides as fair and equitable, and similar to the easygoing deal between the cable operator and Disney earlier this year.
The second type will be more like the hair-pulling brawls that played out over the last few weeks—Viacom v. DirecTV, Hearst v. Time Warner Cable, AMC v. Dish Network. "I think all of the operators are in the same boat," Kagan analyst Derek Baine said. "They are just taking different routes, with Dish apparently willing to give up some networks for good to keep programming costs low."
Indeed, programming costs appear to be on every MSO's mind these days—Baine said that Comcast is simply banking on a longer deal to keep those costs low, while Dish, DirecTV and TWC are all willing to plant the flag and fight in order to keep from getting nickel-and-dimed to death as they bleed subscribers to other services like Netflix.
It's worth noting that those three distributors are all known for driving a hard bargain: Dish is currently in hot water over its "Auto Hop" feature, DirecTV had a similar showdown with Tribune in April, and TWC is currently limbering up for another big fight: the company's agreement with Meredith (another station group owner) is set to end tomorrow, and history could repeat itself before it's far enough in the past to be plausibly called "history."
If you're interested in the "why" of all this, we have some answers for you here...