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MBC: Things go better with Coke

MBC, the start-up network looking to fill a niche for African-American family programming, signed a five-year deal with The Coca-Cola Co. The network announced the agreement at NCTA in New Orleans.

The deal will help propel MBC's struggle to get cable carriage. The network now reaches 1.3 million subscribers, mostly DBS, and has wrangled for more than a year to get cable carriage.

Even though principals include A-list names such as heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, Marlon Jackson of the famed Jackson family and Detroit Tigers all-star Cecil Fielder, MBC is a network without the power of a massive media company or a broadcast network behind it.

Leveraging carriage has been an uphill climb, but its fortunes will soon change when AT & T launches the network on HITS. AT & T is in the process of expanding HITS capacity, both from the transponder perspective and on the ground.

AT & T is adding transponders and implementing new technology that allows smaller MSOs to pick up the signal.

AT & T is also advancing technology that will allow MSOs to "cherry-pick" the digital networks they want from HITS rather than simply take a pre-determined package of eight networks.