People pops for new carriage deal

CBS Eye on People, the entertainment/information network from CBS Cable that has had difficulty landing significant distribution since its spring launch, notched an affiliation agreement Wednesday with the nation’s leading cable operator, Tele-Communications Inc., for carriage on TCI systems.

As with similar TCI deals, however, the pact carries no subscriber guarantees but simply a series of annual carriage “benchmarks” that TCI would need to meet in order to qualify for deep rate discounts.

Moreover, Lloyd Werner, executive VP of sales and marketing for CBS Cable, acknowledged that Eye on People would be carried over less-visible digital tiers on many TCI systems as the service is picked up gradually over the next several years by TCI’s approximately 15 million subs.

Werner added that he is barred contractually from disclosing any benchmark numbers written into the contract.

Best intentions

“And I have to believe that people are signing these contracts these days with the intention of meeting their benchmarks,” Werner said.

The TCI deal won’t initially bump Eye on People’s subscriber total, which stands at about 5 million after a recent deal to be carried on satcaster DirecTV to its nearly 2.7 million subs. However, Werner continues to maintain that the service will double its number of homes by year’s end.

Werner also downplayed any panic about Eye on People’s difficult early rollout, noting that the network now has agreements for at least partial carriage on the No. 3 and No. 5 of the top 10 MSOs just 157 days after launch. “It’s the negative press that’s hardest for us to overcome,” Werner said. “We have a number of systems contemplating launching us, and every time a negative story pops up it gives them pause and they put us off for another month.”

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