Comcast Corp. has reached an affiliation deal to carry
Paxson Communications Corp.'s new family-oriented network, Pax Net, in markets
including Baltimore and Indianapolis, officials said last week.
By Aug. 31, when the new network launches, Comcast will
roll out Pax Net in a number of DMAs where Paxson doesn't own TV stations, in order
to fill in distribution for the new programming service. The Comcast deal covers both
analog and digital carriage, "with built-in channel-placement incentives,"
according to an announcement on the deal.
Comcast will launch Pax Net on three systems in its
Baltimore cluster, as well as in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Ind., and Chesterfield, Va.,
by the end of August, an MSO spokeswoman said. Those launches will total about 500,000
"That's the initial launch," the spokeswoman
said. "The rest of it has not been determined."
Paxson is offering operators upfront launch fees --
reportedly up to $6 per subscriber -- for analog carriage. MSOs are also being paid
incentives to give Pax Net favorable channel placement.
In late April, Tele-Communications Inc. signed affiliation
agreements with both Pax Net and with The WB Television Network for its WeB cable service.
Both of those broadcast networks are turning to cable systems to gain distribution in
markets where they don't have TV-station affiliates. The WeB also has a distribution
deal with Time Warner Cable, its corporate sibling under the Time Warner Inc. umbrella.
TCI will reportedly launch Pax Net in systems representing
4.5 million subscribers.
The WeB hasn't unveiled any additional affiliation
agreements since its announcements about the TCI and Time Warner deals.
About two-thirds of Comcast's systems will be airing
Pax Net when it launches, because they already carry Paxson's TV stations under
must-carry, a Paxson spokeswoman said.
Paxson now owns or has pending deals to acquire 86 TV
stations, reaching more than 73 million homes that will get Pax Net programming. The
company is seeking cable carriage to extend its distribution to more than 80 percent of
U.S. TV households.
Earlier this year, Paxson recruited Jeff Sagansky, a former
top official at Sony Corp. and the CBS network, as its CEO. And the company has already
acquired a raft of off-network programming -- including Touched by an Angel, Promised
Land, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Life Goes On -- to air in primetime.
Pax Net also had original programming in the works, including the series Flipper
and Louisa May Alcott's Little Men.