Agreement with IFTA is designed to bolster opportunities

Comcast and NBC Universal said they have reached an agreement designed to boost opportunities for independent producers via such things as commitments to take pitch meetings, spend development money and make advertiser introductions.

The agreement with the Independent Film & Television Alliance, which was filed with the FCC on Monday, still falls short of what other critics of the proposed Comcast-NBC U joint venture have asked for, such as a set percentage or amount of programming coming from independent suppliers on NBC’s primetime schedule.

But the IFTA, which has 160 members, also has been a critic of the transaction, and its president, Jean Prewitt, testified before a House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year urging strong conditions. A number of those concerns are expected to be repeated today when the FCC holds a field hearing in Chicago on the joint venture.

The agreement covers scripted and reality programming on NBC primetime, as well as on NBC U’s cable entertainment networks and Comcast’s video-on-demand service. They are effective for four years starting on the June 1 following the closing of the transaction.

Among the commitments:

  • NBC will dedicate $1 million for early development of new projects from independent producers, and $500,000 for cable development. NBC U will provide an annual rundown as to where the money was spent.

  • NBC U will schedule a presentation, or “development meeting,” each year for independent producers outlining its scripted and reality programming needs.

  • NBC U will set up annual meetings with creative executives to take series pitches from independent producers. In the six months after each development meeting, its cable group will take at least 15 pitches and its broadcast group will take at least 20 pitches.

  • NBC will introduce independent producers of movies of the week to advertisers looking to fully sponsor such programming, with an eye toward the network slotting such projects “as the company’s sales and programming needs dictate.”

  • The cable networks will consider buying completed movies of the week and miniseries from independent producers “at agreed upon times and locations including the American Film Market in a good faith effort to consider independent programming for such slots.”

  • Comcast will work with IFTA to develop a plan to simplify the method by which producers license their content for distribution on new media platforms.

The agreement also sets several conditions for what qualifies as an “independent producer,” including that the person or entity not be part of a vertically integrated company.

It’s unclear what impact the agreement will have on others who are opposing the joint venture as it is currently constructed. WGA West president John Wells testified before Congress in March that the two companies should be required to commit 25% of their broadcast and cable primetime programming to independent production.

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