Charter Extends ABC Family's Term

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ABC Family has closed on a carriage renewal with a third key distributor, Charter Communications Inc., officials said last week.

The multiyear deal involves most of the cable operator's 6.8 million subscribers, since ABC Family is carried widely throughout the MSO, a source said. The Charter pact is the latest affiliation-deal renewal to be locked up by ABC Family's new owners, The Walt Disney Co. and its ABC Cable Networks Group.

In addition to the Charter pact, ABC Family in the past six months has also secured contract extensions with the two leading direct-broadcast satellite providers, EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc.

Counting all three distributors, ABC Family has secured continued carriage with just over 20 million subscribers, representing roughly one-quarter of its total 84.7 million-home universe.

OTHERS STILL OUT

The cable network's contracts with several large operators have expired during the past year, including deals with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp. Contract renewals with those MSOs have yet to be announced.

Charter and ABC Cable declined to discuss the terms of their new deal. An ABC Cable spokeswoman said that the contract involves only ABC Family, and no other Disney cable networks.

"Under Disney's ownership, ABC Family has built its audience and added value to the network that is attracting more viewers to cable," Charter CEO Carl Vogel said in a prepared statement.

During the May sweeps, ABC Family's primetime ratings grew 17 percent, to a 0.7 average, according to Nielsen Media Research.

At last month's National Show in New Orleans, Disney chairman Michael Eisner disclosed that ABC Family had completed a contract renewal with DirecTV.

In April, EchoStar and ABC Family reached a multiyear renewal deal as part of a legal settlement. Disney had sued the DBS company to prevent it from dropping ABC Family earlier this year.

Disney paid $5.2 billion to News Corp. and Haim Saban for Fox Family Channel last fall; it has since renamed the service and is in the process of revamping its programming.

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