Comcast, NBCU and the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), have struck an agreement on "enhanced opportunities" for indepependent programmers that would apply if Comcast and NBCU are allowed to create their joint venture. That includes a pledge of $6 million in independent production development funds over four years.
NBC has pledged to allocate $1 million in development funds per year, and its cable nets another $500,000 per years, to support "early development of new projects from Independent Producers."
"IFTA does not oppose the merger," IFTA President Jean Prewitt told the magazine Monday. "Comcast and NBCU came to us with this proposal. They deliberately chose IFTA, which has long played a key role in policy issues of concern to the industry," she said in a statement to the magazine.
The commitments, which will apply for four years after the deal closes, also include: development meetings where NBCU outlines its upcoming scripted and reality programming needs for independent producers; a promise to set up pitch meetings from independents; "introductions" to advertisers approaching NBCU about fully sponsored movies of the week; consideration of independent films and miniseries in any acquisition strategies; Comcast agreees to create a process for considering indendent content for online distribution.
IFTA has been critical of the deal. In a House hearing earlier this year, Prewitt had not been assuaged by Comcast pledges to add independent programming as part of the company's initial public-interest statement, saying that promise of more independent programming might, instead of a field where all flowers bloom, prove to be "a walled and sparsely tended garden."
Now, IFTA has its bouquet of commitments to point to if, as even some of its critics predict, the deal eventually goes through.
Access to independent programming was also a big issue with Sen. Al Franken (D- Minn.) during the chamber's vetting of the deal earlier this year.
"Comcast is committed to fostering creativity by working with the independent film and TV by bringing more content to more consumers across more platforms," said spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. "This agreement is one example of that commitment, another is adding independent linear channels and more VOD content."
Comcast and NBCU had already struck deals for more diversity commitments with groups representing African- Americans and Hispanics.
The IFTA announcement of the deal comes on the eve of the FCC's field forum on the deal in Chicago July 13.