Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) Xfinity TV subscribers stymied by the lack of access to iPad app WatchESPN have relief in sight: a new multi-year, cross-platform deal between the Walt Disney Co. and the largest U.S. cable operator will open a lot of content doors, including access to current and upcoming authenticated products from ESPN, Disney and ABC (NYSE: DIS). It’s the first authentication deal for the Disney-ABC cable channels.
The sprawling deal covers 70 services, including cable networks, retransmission consent for seven ABC O&Os, the launch of Disney Junior on Comcast and more. The Disney, Disney XD and ABC Family licnesing deal expired at the end of last year; the two companies decided to roll that up into a bigger deal.
So what does it mean for consumers? Those who already pay for Comcast will get access to more programming in more ways (depending on the subscription level) — and, they probably will pay more over the life of the deal to get it. Those who don’t want to pay for cable and the kind of expanded exclusive digital access now being included in deals will face the kind of situation I outlined a few days ago: more access for paid users means less for those relying on the free part of freemium.
They’ll have more options through the set-top as well as online or mobile devices and tablets. At this point, more ABC content has been available on demand through Hulu.com or ABC.com then on TV. ABC, ABC Family and Disney all will have expanded on demand access, including full seasons for some shows — the kind of move that can keep fans interested and engaged.
On another note, it also means that Comcast subscribers in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno get to skip the public posturing over retrans and threats of ABC going dark on their system into the next decade.
Some more details in the release:
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and The Walt Disney Company today announced a long-term, comprehensive distribution agreement that will deliver Disney’s top quality sports, news and entertainment content to Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers into the next decade on television, online, on tablets and handheld devices. The new agreement enhances the multichannel business model and supports the companies’ mutual goal to deliver the best video content to customers across multiple platforms using the latest technology and cloud innovation. For the first time ever, Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers will be able to watch ESPN, ABC or Disney shows live or on demand and across multiple screens. The companies also agreed to collaborate over the term of the deal to create new, innovative viewing experiences for Xfinity TV customers.
The networks and services covered by the agreement include: ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN 3D, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN3; retransmission consent for seven ABC-owned broadcast television stations (WABC-TV New York, WLS-TV Chicago, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, KGO-TV San Francisco, KTRK-TV Houston, KTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, and KFSN-TV Fresno) as well as more than 10 high-definition networks. Additionally, Comcast will launch Disney Junior, a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers. Comcast will also provide its Xfinity TV customers with broad access to a suite of live Disney networks on an authenticated basis and expanded Xfinity On Demand content through Disney’s comprehensive TV+ initiative. In total, 70 services are covered by the broad scope of this new agreement. License fee schedules for different services under the deal will be phased in over time.
“Comcast was the first video provider to create technology that enabled us to deliver content to customers where and when they want it across any viewing experience,” said Neil Smit, President and Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable. “We are very pleased to have reached this unprecedented and innovative, long-term agreement with Disney which embraces the future of entertainment and allows Comcast to continue to bring our vision of TV Everywhere to Xfinity customers whether at home or on the go.”
Anne Sweeney, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney/ABC Television Group, added, “This landmark deal is a great example of what can be achieved when programmers and distributors collaborate and innovate together to meet the ever-evolving needs of consumers and enhance the viewing experience. By combining the best news, sports and entertainment content available today with cutting-edge technologies, we’re able to fully realize our comprehensive TV+ initiative, and introduce a brand new suite of authenticated services to Comcast subscribers.”
Added George Bodenheimer, Executive Chairman, ESPN, Inc., “Given the scope of assets Comcast and Disney/ABC/ESPN are making available to consumers, this agreement is unprecedented in our industry. It reinforces the value of the multichannel subscription and takes full advantage of new technologies, which serve all of our viewers.”
The extensive and expanded rights package for Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers includes rights across multiple platforms for:
— Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers will receive more ABC, ABC Family, Disney and ESPN content through their set-top-box and, at this time, Disney and ESPN content online, including:
— ABC On Demand, ABC’s fast-forward-disabled On Demand service, which currently features a selection of top-rated primetime entertainment programming, including episodes of such popular current ABC shows as Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time (NYSE: TWX), Private Practice and Revenge. Full current seasons will be made available on a number of shows. Additionally, Xfinity TV customers will have access to a variety of ABC News programming as well as some local ABC owned-station content.
— ABC Family On Demand, which features a variety of top-rated full episodes, refreshed monthly, from such popular millennial favorites as The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Switched at Birth, and Melissa & Joey. Full current seasons will be made available on a number of shows. ABC Family original movies like “12 Dates of Christmas” will also be available.
— Disney-branded On Demand offerings, including Disney Channel On Demand, Disney Junior On Demand, and Disney XD On Demand. Refreshed each month, the Disney Channel On Demand offering will include episodes from such series as Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates for preschoolers, as well as variety of episodes from A.N.T. Farm, Good Luck Charlie, Wizards of Waverly Place, and other popular series for older kids. Select episodes featured on Disney Channel On Demand will be available in innovative new offerings, such as playlists and monthly programming blocks, in addition to a number of episodes available in multiple languages. Disney Channel Original Movies such as Lemonade Mouth, Geek Charming and Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension will also be available. Disney XD On Demand features a variety of episodes from such series as the Emmy Award-winning animated hit Phineas and Ferb.
— Disney Channel’s subscription Video On Demand service, which offers on demand access to select episodes before they air, will now be available to Xfinity TV customers who receive Disney Channel, a service that Comcast will offer to these customers for no additional fee.
— Expanded on demand content from ESPN, including content from ESPN Deportes and ESPN’s award-winning original content from ESPN Films.
— The subscription On Demand service “Disney Family Movies,” which features a selection of classic and contemporary feature films and animated shorts from The Walt Disney Studios.
— Xfinity TV customers will receive broad access to existing authenticated products like WatchESPN, as well as upcoming authenticated products, including WatchDisneyChannel, WatchDisneyXD and WatchDisneyJunior. These services will give Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers more opportunities to access live and video on demand content, both in-home and out-of-home, on their computers, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles.
Xfinity TV customers will also receive the recently announced Disney Junior, a new 24-hour basic channel for children ages 2-7, parents and caregivers. Upon its debut in 2012, the new channel will feature animated and live action programming that blends Disney’s unparalleled storytelling and beloved characters with learning, including early math, language skills, healthy eating and lifestyles, and social skills.
Comcast also obtained rights to air certain content from ESPN3, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN GamePlan on Comcast’s Xfinity Sports Entertainment Package.