Monday, December 7, 2009

Comcast Fuels Hope At Indie Networks

Independently-owned cable networks are cautiously optimistic about Comcast’s pledge to offer greater carriage opportunities in the wake of last week’s Comcast-NBC Universal joint-venture agreement.

In an effort to help smooth the regulatory process for its multibillion-dollar deal, Comcast has outlined several public interest conditions — one of which is a promise to launch at least two independently owned cable networks on its programming lineup once Comcast completes its full infrastructure upgrade to digital.

Industry executives said the pronouncement comes as independent networks struggle to secure significant distribution on Comcast-owned systems.

“Remember how independent networks have fared when they’ve called on Comcast in the past. … There has been an attitude of equity investment for carriage within Comcast so we’ll see what happens,” said Gary Lico, president and CEO of CableU, a cable-network research company. “I’m going to take it on good faith because the plain and simple of all of it is you have to do business with everyone. The proof will be in the putting.”

Hispanic-targeted indie network Sí TV is taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding the announcement. Network CEO Michael Schwimmer said the MSO’s track record with regard to launching independent networks is not stellar, particularly when compared to its distribution of its in-house owned-and-operated channels.

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