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Comcast, Time Warner strike major content deal

February 1, 2011 | 11:08 am

Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable and broadband provider, has struck a wide-ranging deal with Time Warner Inc. that will give the company access to content that it can distribute across numerous platforms.

The multiyear deal means that Comcast subscribers will be able to access Time Warner-owned programming from networks that include TBS and TNT online.

The deal is part of Time Warner and Comcast's TV Everywhere initiative. The concept of TV Everywhere is that cable subscribers can watch content online at no extra charge. The other concept of TV Everywhere that doesn't get talked about much is that cable operators don't want programmers putting their content online for folks who are not subscribers to a pay TV service.

Content providers, who get paid lots of money from cable companies, also want to protect that revenue stream. At the same time though, some no doubt recognize that technology will someday make new platforms as viable as the current system.

So how does one guard the current business model without closing the door on the future. That was one of the major issues for the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission in its review and eventual approval of Comcast's deal to take control of NBC Universal.

To safeguard against pay-TV distributors such as Comcast from stifling the growth of online distribution platforms, the Justice Department tried to put some stiff rules in its approval. Specifically, its final order calls for Comcast to not structure programming deals that "limit or create incentives" that would keep a cable programmer from offering content to an online video distribution service (OVD).

Ultimately, it remains to be seen if the conditions will have enough teeth to prevent incumbent distributors such as Comcast from limiting the potential of OVDs.

-- Joe Flint

 

 

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