Comcast Adds Disney

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On the eve of the political conventions, Comcast Corp. has signed a major broadband content distribution deal with ABC Inc. for ABC News product, as well as a deal with The Walt Disney Co. to launch Disney Connection on a new Kids Channel on Comcast’s broadband portal.

The deal does not include any of Disney-owned ESPN’s content.

ABC will provide its ABC News On Demand and “ABC News Now,” the 24-hour live Internet streaming feed, to Comcast’s 5.7 million broadband subscribers.

Comcast subscribers will have access to complete rebroadcasts of Nightline, plus selected reports from World News Tonight, Good Morning America, This Week, 20/20 and Primetime Live.

ABC News Now will provide gavel-to-gavel programming of the political conventions, starting with this week’s Democratic gathering in Boston.

Disney Connection, destined for a Kids Channel slot later this year, includes games, activities and video from Disney, as well as selected access to premium sites, including Disney Blast and Disney Toontown Online.

“This agreement with Disney and ABC News enables us to add significant value to our customers’ lives, specifically in areas of high interest, including kids, news and entertainment,” according to Comcast Online senior vice president of marketing and business development Greg Butz.

“This is really driven off a strategy to continue to provide customers best in class content and applications,” he continued. “We have invested in the network layer. Now we want to empower users with best-in-class, built-for broadband applications.”

Butz called ABC News Live “a pretty innovative service.” It is the first 24/7 service Comcast has launched in its video-streaming portal, The Fan.

Butz also thinks the on-demand nature of ABC News programs — the ability for consumers to watch World News Tonight online if they missed the broadcast — is a nice fit.

“We’re ideally suited for this application,” Butz said. “News is our No. 1 channel in terms usage.”

Comcast also carries broadband news content from CBS, CNBC and the Associated Press.

Over the first six months of 2004, video streaming increased 87% among broadband users of The Fan, which also includes content from E! Entertainment Television, Food Network, G4techTV, Home & Garden Television, Foxsports.com, Independent Film Channel, Major League Baseball and the Weather Channel.

The MSO said Comcast.net was the top broadband portal according to Nielsen Media Research’s June 2004 NetRatings index, eighth in overall page views and 10th in repeat visits per person per month.

Kids Channel will launch later this year. “This is about trying to provide solutions to the whole family,” Butz said. “Kids are a very important segment.” Forty percent of Comcast’s broadband homes have children in them.

Subscribers will see activities and games from Disney Connection, plus selected content from Disney premium services Disney Blast and Disney ToonTown. Disney Blast is priced at $49.95 for a year, and ToonTown is sold at $9.95 a month.

The idea is to expose consumers to the free content, then allow them to subscribe to the full level of service at a discount, Butz said.

Comcast uses the same model for MLB.com, allowing subscribers to get full-season access to video and audio of games for $79, compared to the $99 retail rate. “These are places where we think we can add value,” Butz said.

Comcast executives called newspaper reports that the MSO paid Disney $20 million over five years for the deal “grossly inaccurate.”

The business model is based on the opportunity to sell the premium services, in which both sides would share in the revenue, Butz said.

ABC News already is offered by AOL Broadband, SBC Communications Inc. and Real Networks Inc.

“It’s a multiple-year deal and thrilled to be in relationship with Comcast where there is upside for both parties,” said Bernard Gershon, senior vice president and general manager of ABC News Digital Media Group.

ABC News Now regularly updates three-minute and five-minute news briefs at the top of the hour. “We’re expanding the news briefs on weeknights and weekends,” Gershon added.

The channel provides extensive coverage of live events, such as John Kerry’s selection of John Edwards as his running mate and Ronald Reagan’s funeral. It will offer extensive coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Gershon said.

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