Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) stepped to the precipice of blackout Armageddon — and wisely took a giant step back. Instead of risking their standing with subscribers and viewers, they put away the harsh rhetoric, kept working through the midnight deadline Wednesday and made a deal that keeps ABC owned-and-operated stations, ESPN and a host of Disney cable nets on Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable and Bright House Networks without a blip.
The new deal, described in the announcement as Disney’s “most expansive content agreement to date,” moves beyond broadcast and cable to broadband, gaining berths for ESPN3 and creating a “TV Everywhere” option for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
— ESPN3: The broadband net will be available to all subscribers with access to ESPN — by far the bulk of the two operators’ subs. The operators also will be able to feature cleared content from ESPN3 on a sports tier. ESPN3 has become a live and VOD sports provider, with rights to more than 3,500 live events. ESPN3 usually is offered through cable operators’ ISPs. ESPN also insists on separate payment for ESPN3, treating it like any other network; the fee is believed to be 10 cents a sub. This variation gives Time Warner Cable the ability to say the network is matched to sports, not to broadband distribution. (An ESPN spokeswoman told THR: “We achieved a fair exchange of value while reinforcing the value of the video subscription business.”)
— TV Everywhere: ESPN3 can be accessed outside the home once an account has been authenticated, although it’s not quite TV Everywhere since its availability is currently limited to PCs and Macs. This agreement adds another authenticated service for linear nets ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU that the companies say will be available through broadband and on mobile devices “like an iPad.” No details yet on the launch; they say “forthcoming.” Notably, there’s no similar provision for ABC or Disney cable content.
— Expanded VOD: All too often, the lack of a primetime show on cable VOD sends viewers like me online when we should be able to click the remote and watch. This deal adds ABC On Demand to “many markets” with a number of primetime shows for viewing with fast-forward disabled, along with Disney On Demand from its various kids nets. It also includes subscription VOD service Disney Family Movies and “a new transactional VOD service for select content from the Disney/ABC Television Group.”
What’s it going to cost? Multichannel News sources say the retrans rights for the ABC stations will run 60 cents to 75 cents per sub and that ABC Family and Disney Channel managed “substantial” increases after moving up in the ratings.
More details in the release.