Cablevision Gets Olympic Spirit

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On the eve of the Summer Olympic Games, NBC Cable has signed up one of the last holdouts, Cablevision Systems Corp., for its package of Olympic coverage on MSNBC and CNBC through 2008, officials said last week.

"We had been talking all along, and you come to a point where you just close the deal," a Cablevision spokeswoman said last Friday, declining to offer further details.

With Cablevision on board, that leaves Comcast Corp. as the major MSO yet to cut a deal for the Olympics. The games are set to kick off next month in Sydney, Australia.

"We are very close to making an announcement," a Comcast spokeswoman said. "We are talking to them. We feel very good about it." An NBC spokeswoman confirmed that both sides were in the final stages of negotiations, and that an Olympic deal with Comcast could be announced this week.

In recent weeks, NBC Cable has also closed Olympic agreements with Cable One Inc. and Mediacom Communications Corp.

NBC Cable has deals in place with more than 90 percent of the MSOs and direct-broadcast satellite providers across the country. That roster includes AT & T Broadband, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc., DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.

"With Cablevision, Mediacom and Cable One, we now have almost every cable and DBS provider in America," NBC Cable president David Zaslav said.

Zaslav has been on a long quest to sell the Olympic package to cable. Cable operators initially balked when they learned that the programmer was levying a more-than-$1-per-subscriber, per-year Olympic surcharge for five Olympic Games, ending in 2008.

In fact, the National Cable Television Cooperative, which represents small and midsized cable operators with 13 million subscribers, opted not to do an Olympic deal with NBC Cable because of the cost.

NBC Cable's package also included hefty license-fee increases and long-term carriage extensions for CNBC and MSNBC.

In many cases, NBC Cable was also able to get carriage commitments for its new digital network, CNBC2. CNBC2 will be a 24-hour business service that will include programming from CNBC Europe and CNBC Asia; coverage of investment panels and in-depth interviews with CEOs from CNBC; and data from CNBC.com.

CNBC2 is expected to be on the new transponder that AT & T Broadband's Headend in the Sky will launch in October.

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