Comcast-Viacom Contract Includes VOD and Retrans

Comcast Corp. and Viacom Inc. last week unveiled a broad carriage deal that not only covers the programmer's cable networks but includes video-on-demand rights, as well as retransmission consent for 32 CBS and UPN TV stations.

The long-term pact calls for the joint development of VOD services using content from CBS News and the MTV Networks stable of services, including Nickelodeon, MTV: Music Television and Noggin.

MTVN service Comedy Central has already been experimenting with VOD with MSOs such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp., according to MTVN president and chief operating officer Mark Rosenthal.

But this marks one of the first arrangements where MTVN has granted an MSO on-demand rights for a wide variety of the programmer's core networks.

"This deal involves VOD content from a lot of our top brands," Rosenthal said. Overall, the new carriage deal is "a win-win for both sides," he added.

Viacom gets rollouts for some of its services and rate increases, he said, while the mega-MSO gets VOD content, among other things.

"This certainly is a landmark deal," Rosenthal said. "Comcast got a lot in this deal, in terms of the retransmission consent for CBS and UPN, and the ability to carry a number of big CBS shows in high definition, as well as the ability to get more video-on-demand with some of our best brands."

In turn, Rosenthal added, "MTV Networks has really healthy rate increases on a going-forward basis for all of our networks, both analog and digital, as well as a lot of distribution that we did not have previously for certain pieces of our Digital Suite."

UBS Warburg analyst Aryeh Bourkoff estimated that the new contract provides for annual license-fee increases in the 6% to 8% range.

The deal provides for analog and digital retransmission consent for Viacom's TV stations, namely 15 CBS stations and 17 UPN outlets. In addition, the multi-year agreement includes extensions of existing affiliation contracts, as well as extensions of expiring deals.

Under the new pact, MTVN channels such as Black Entertainment Television, Spike TV, Comedy Central, CMT: Country Music Television and the Digital Suite will continue to be carried.

In addition, Comcast will launch the diginets Nicktoons and MTV Hits, and increase carriage of MTV2, Nickelodeon GAS, VH1 Classic and VH1 Country.

Comcast declined to comment beyond its press release.

"This agreement is terrific for our customers because it contains rights for exciting HDTV and video-on-demand programming that we're delivering at no additional charge," Comcast president Brian Roberts said in a prepared statement.