ViacomCBS and Comcast have set a wide-ranging carriage renewal that includes conventional elements like retransmission but also breaks new ground by bringing streaming service CBS All Access to Comcast set-top boxes.
The companies said Wednesday the deal will extend retransmission consent of 23 CBS-owned television stations in 15 major markets, including CBS-owned CW affiliates. Cable networks Showtime, Smithsonian, Pop and CBS Sports Network are also included. Two MyNetwork affiliates will be available in Boston and Miami and the CBS-owned independent station will be available in New York.
It is the first major carriage agreement for ViacomCBS since it closed its long-anticipated merger in December. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the agreement said it will not be anywhere near as long as the previous pact, which had a 10-year term. The media landscape of 2020 looks quite different from the one in 2010, and all parties want to protect their options as market forces continue to change. Sources involved with the deal also said it aligns with the expiration of existing carriage deals between Viacom and Comcast so that the full portfolio of networks can be re-negotiated at around the same time.
The CBS All Access appearance on Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms represents the first time that the nearly five-year-old streaming service will be offered through an MVPD-based set-top box. Comcast will earn a portion of the fee paid by each subscriber who signs up for the CBS services via its platforms.
Streaming has unsettled decades-old relationships in the pay-TV ecosystem, with operators like Comcast (the No. 1 cable distributor in the U.S.) losing subscribers as programmers go directly to consumers. Even though video subscriptions have declined, though, companies like Comcast do brisk business on the broadband service required for streaming.
“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement,” said Ray Hopkins, President of U.S. Networks Distribution at ViacomCBS. “We look forward to discussing the entire ViacomCBS portfolio with Comcast in the future.”
Rebecca Heap, SVP, Video and Entertainment, Comcast Cable, called ViacomCBS ” a great partner,” adding that the deal will give Comcast customers “more access to their content across multiple platforms.”
The agreement also includes TV Everywhere offerings — aka streaming that requires a pay-TV log-in — from CBS Television Network and CBS Sports Network to Xfinity customers.
Investors didn’t immediately have a strong reaction either way to news of the deal, with shares of ViacomCBS and Comcast moving only fractionally in mid-day trading. Analysts had flagged the distribution renewal as a point of some concern in 2020.
Michael Morris of Guggenheim Securities wrote in a brief note to clients that ViacomCBS “achieved two strategic goals” with the renewal. First, it improved pricing from the previous 2010 level and second, it created efficiency by aligning the expiration of the new deal with that of the existing Viacom agreements.