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Comcast Cuts Broad Disney Deal

Comcast cut a wide-ranging programming deal with Disney Tuesday in an agreement that also saw the nation’s largest cable operator acquire Disney’s 39.5% stake in E! Entertainment Television for $1.23 billion.

The agreement not only includes distribution for Disney’s wide portfolio of cable networks, but primetime video-on-demand programming from ABC.

The VOD segment of the deal is noteworthy, as Comcast has long sought to obtain hit primetime programming from ABC, which the cable operator can use to differentiate itself from direct-broadcast satellite rivals DirecTV and EchoStar Communications.

Comcast said it will offer free-VOD distribution of ABC shows the day after they air on the broadcast network beginning next fall, including Desperate Housewives, Lost and two “yet-to-be determined” series.

The catch: The programming will initially be available only in Comcast markets where ABC owns and operates a local station, including New York; Philadelphia; Chicago; San Francisco; Houston; Fresno, Calif.; and Flint, Mich. The ABC VOD content will contain advertising.

Select VOD programming from ESPN and other Disney-owned cable networks is also included in the deal.

The long-term carriage agreement covers distribution for Disney Channel, ABC Family, Toon Disney, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNews, ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD and increased carriage of SOAPnet. Comcast also agreed to launch Spanish-language network ESPN Deportes.

One of the few Disney programming assets not included in the deal is ESPN 360, a broadband Internet programming service distributed by Verizon Communications’ Verizon FiOS TV, which has not achieved significant cable distribution.