Entertainment Industry

Category: ABC Family

Disney partners with Comcast to provide ABC, ESPN on-demand

ABCshowOnceUponATime

Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal allowing Comcast Corp. cable customers access to all of its popular channels — including ESPN, ABC, ABC Family and the Disney Channel — from portable devices and video-on-demand services.

The expansive deal, announced Wednesday, will allow Comcast's more than 22 million cable customers who sign up for its Xfinity service to watch the Disney channels live or on-demand either while they are in their homes or on the go via their tablets or other portable devices. 

This is the first time that Comcast has agreed to pay for local retransmission of ABC-owned TV stations. For the last three years, broadcasters have been negotiating with cable companies to pay for signals that they previously provided for free.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The agreement also marks the first time that Disney has provided live streaming and earlier video-on-demand access to its stable of entertainment channels as well as sports juggernaut ESPN. Time Warner Cable customers have access to "Watch ESPN," the Disney-owned network's authenticated streaming service. 

Disney and Comcast said that 70 services would be covered in the new long-term distribution agreement. 

The networks and services covered by the agreement also include Disney Junior (a new 24-hour basic cable channel for preschoolers), Disney XD, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN 3D, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN3. It also covers retransmission consent for seven ABC-owned broadcast television stations, among them WABC-TV New York and WLS-TV Chicago.

Philadelphia-based Comcast will provide its Xfinity TV customers with the suite of live Disney networks on an authenticated basis, meaning users must register to verify they are cable customers. 

“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,” Neil Smit, chief executive of Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

“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," Smit said.

Comcast said that license fee schedules for services covered in the deal would be phased in.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, 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. "

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— Meg James

Photo: Ginnifer Goodwin stars in ABC's new hit "Once Upon A Time." Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / ABC.

ABC partners with Corus to launch youth network in Canada

Hoping to build on its success drawing the young-adult crowd, the ABC Television Group said Wednesday it was planning to launch a new network next spring in Canada called ABC Spark.

The Walt Disney Co. unit is partnering on the channel with Corus Entertainment, a publicly traded Toronto-based company, which owns radio stations and TV programming services. Disney will license its content to the service, and Corus will line up distribution.

ABC Spark Channel Financial details were not disclosed.

The venture aims to create a 24-hour network modeled after Disney's hugely successful ABC Family cable channel. The new advertising supported service will include some of ABC Family's programming that appeals to the millennial generation -- people born roughly between the years 1980 and 2002.

ABC Family has enjoyed substantial ratings growth in recent years in that demographic with such programming as "Switched at Birth," and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."

“We are very pleased to work with Corus in bringing ABC Family’s well-known, popular programming into the Canadian marketplace,” Janice Marinelli, Disney-ABC Domestic Television president, said in a statement distributed by ABC. Her group is the content distribution arm for Disney in the U.S. and Canada.

ABC said the deal marks the first time the two companies have collaborated to create a 24-hour channel. Corus has relationships with other U.S. programmers, including Time Warner Inc.'s HBO, Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon and the Discovery Communications Inc.'s Oprah Winfrey cable channel OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

“Bridging the gap between our kids and women’s networks, ABC Spark will be a national service with compelling programming directed at the fast-expanding millennial generation,” Doug Murphy, Corus Television president, said in the statement.

Disney said the millennial group includes about 85 million young adults in the U.S. and another 10 million in Canada. In recent years, television companies and marketers have been clamoring to reach the youth generation.

-- Meg James

Image: Disney-ABC Television Group

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