Comcast, Disney Nail Down New Carriage Deal

10-year pact includes retrans, 'TV Everywhere' perks

Comcast and the Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday announced they have hashed out a comprehensive carriage deal that extends into the next decade. Terms of the new agreement will allow for increased distribution across a wealth of digital platforms.

While financials were not disclosed, both parties acknowledged that license fee schedules for different services will be phased in over time. 

The deal rolls up cable carriage with retransmission consent for seven ABC-owned broadcast television stations: WABC-TV New York, WLS-TV Chicago, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, KGO-TV San Francisco, KTRK-TV Houston, KTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham and KFSN-TV Fresno.

Among the 70 networks and services covered by the agreement are the ABC broadcasting network and the ESPN family of cable networks. Carriage for ABC Family and Disney Channel are also included in the new deal.

“This landmark deal is a great example of what can be achieved when programmers and distributors collaborate and innovate together to meet the ever-evolving needs of consumers and enhance the viewing experience,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, by way of announcing the pact. “By combining the best news, sports and entertainment content available today with cutting-edge technologies, we’re able to fully realize our comprehensive TV+ initiative and introduce a brand new suite of authenticated services to Comcast subscribers."

As was the case with Comcast’s August 2010 deal with CBS Corp., the Comcast-Disney pact is said to be valid for a 10-year span.

One of the highlights of the new deal is a beefed-up “TV Everywhere” protocol, which will allow Comcast Xfinity TV subs to stream ABC, ESPN or Disney-branded programming on iPads/tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices, both in and outside the home. As a result, authenticated Comcast customers for the first time may now access live sports and studio programming via the WatchESPN app.

Previously, only Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon’s FiOS TV subscribers had the authorization to utilize the WatchESPN service.

“Comcast was the first video provider to create technology that enabled us to deliver content to customers where and when they want it across any viewing experience,” said Neil Smit, president and CEO, Comcast Cable. “We are very pleased to have reached this unprecedented and innovative, long-term agreement with Disney which embraces the future of entertainment and allows Comcast to continue to bring our vision of TV Everywhere to Xfinity customers whether at home or on the go.”

As Disney boasts some of the most valuable real estate on the cable dial, the 10-year pact ensures that no messy carriage fight will disrupt service to the nation’s largest cable operator. Per SNL Kagan estimates, ESPN’s carriage fee is $4.69 per sub per month, making it the priciest network on cable. Disney Channel is also a blockbuster, charging as much as $1 per sub per month for its feed.