Viacom hitches DirecTV carriage

Satcaster's deal is similar to Comcast pact

Viacom polished off two more multinetwork cable carriage deals this week, announcing Wednesday that it had reached a major renewal agreement with News Corp.-owned DirecTV for all current MTV Networks analog and digital channels, including BET. DirecTV reaches some 12 million homes.

Neither party would confirm financial details on the so-called global deal, but sources say average price increases across all the channels are probably in line with a similar blanket deal reached with Comcast last month. Analysts speculate that deal calls for 6%-9% average annual fee increases.

DirecTV secures long-term carriage of all MTV Networks’ program services currently carried by the DBS platform, and BET. Agreement also provides for CBS and UPN analog broadcasts, as well as high-definition broadcasts for CBS’ coverage of Super Bowl XXXVIII and its HDTV lineup in owned-and-operated markets.

Satcaster also agreed to launch MTV Networks’ Nicktoons on its Total Choice Plus premium package.

Overall, deal is broadly similar to Viacom’s Dec. 19 pact with Comcast, whose deal also includes possible new video-on-demand services using CBS News and MTV content. That deal also provided for analog and digital retransmission consent to Comcast systems for Viacom television stations.

Mediacom deal inked

On Tuesday, Viacom also finalized a long-term deal with cabler Mediacom, guaranteeing distribution of all MTV Networks analog channels, including Comedy Central. Agreement also provides for the distribution of MTV Networks’ core digital package, which includes Noggin, VH1 Classic, MTV2, Nickelodeon Games and Sports, Nicktoons and MTV Hits across Mediacom systems. Given the relatively small (less than 1 million subscribers) size of Mediacom’s footprint, the price increases are probably in the high single to low double digits annually, speculated Rich Greenfield of Fulcrum Global Partners.

In a speech to investors at the Smith Barney Conference on Tuesday, Viacom chief exec Sumner Redstone dismissed the notion that consolidation of distribution will put a squeeze on affiliate fee increases.

With its potent arsenal of “must carry” niche mainstays like MTV, VHI and Nickelodeon, Viacom has evidently shifted its negotiating approach with distribs from channel-to-channel haggling to blanket, multiyear deals with common end dates where possible.

In the third quarter of 2003, Viacom’s cable networks division (MTV Networks) managed to report affiliate fees up 16% over the prior year’s period.

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