Viacom, Comcast ink 5-year TV broadcast pact

MUMBAI: Cable television majors Viacom Inc and Comcast Corp. have signed a five-year landmark distribution contract, agreeing to broadcast Viacom's CBS affiliates and national cable networks on Comcast's cable-TV systems.

The pact covers most of Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, Comedy Central and BET. Additionally, Comcast will augment its digital suite of services by launching Nicktoons and MTV Hits and increasing the distribution of MTV2, Nickelodeon GAS, VH1 Classic and VH1 Country.

The pact also provides for joint development of new video-on-demand (VoD) services featuring popular branded content from CBS News and the MTV Networks family of properties.

The contract, which is effective immediately, includes both extensions of existing carriage deals as well as renewal of expiring affiliate contracts.

Though the financial terms were not disclosed, negotiating an overall deal is expected to increase Viacom's leverage. According to a Reuters report, cable companies like Comcast have been trying to reduce program costs by holding down the price it pays to carry cable channels while broadcasters are trying to leverage their popular brands to get cable companies to take on new networks.

Comcast became the largest cable television operator in the US after it acquired AT&T Corp and reportedly has 21 million subscribers.

Viacom president and COO Mel Karmazin was quoted in a company release as saying, "This company-wide agreement between two industry leaders is unprecedented and is a major extension and enhancement of the long-standing and successful relationship between our two companies. We are very pleased that we can continue to provide Comcast subscribers with Viacom's popular array of high-quality branded entertainment, sports, news and event programming."

"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 is at the forefront of delivering advanced entertainment services, and this contract provides Viacom's compelling programming to further their appeal. I'd like to thank Mel and Sumner for Viacom's leadership and their partnership with Comcast, and I'm pleased to have successfully concluded another major programming agreement this year," Comcast president and CEO Brian L Roberts was quoted as saying in the release.

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