Tele-Communications Inc. last week closed two separate
affiliation deals to carry two broadcast networks, Pax Net and The WB Network, in some
markets where the broadcasters lack TV-station affiliates.
Under the deal with Pax Net, the family-oriented network
that Paxson Communications Corp. is launching Aug. 31, TCI won't have to pay license
fees; it will get local avails; and it will also reportedly get paid some upfront launch
fees for analog carriage. Pax Net, which is close to a deal with a direct-broadcast
satellite provider, will also take digital distribution.
Lowell Paxson, chairman of Paxson Communications, predicted
that Pax Net will secure carriage on TCI systems representing 4.5 million subscribers,
which would bring its U.S. coverage to roughly 77 percent from 72 percent. However, Matt
Bond, president of TCI's Satellite Services Inc., said there is no definitive rollout
TCI also has a long-term deal to carry The WB's
so-called WeB service on its cable systems in smaller DMAs. Under the arrangement, a
number of local broadcasters -- mainly Benedek Broadcast Co. -- will partner with
TCI's and Time Warner Cable's local cable systems to bring the WeB to their
markets, which are DMAs ranked between No. 100 and No. 210.
The deals with TCI and Time Warner will be the model that
the WB uses to get the WeB carriage with other MSOs. TCI and Time Warner will get a share
of the local ad revenue sold on the WeB in their markets, with the WB and local
broadcasters splitting the rest. Bond was impressed with the first-run programming that
TCI will be getting via the WeB and with the fact that it will be cable-exclusive.
The WeB is a 24-hour cable version of the WB that will
offer 28 hours of original WB programming, including its primetime slate. The WeB will
also use its market buying power to secure syndicated off-network shows, film packages and
Under the deal spearheaded by TCI and Time Warner, cable
systems that launch the WeB by Sept. 21 will get 10 percent of its gross local-ad sales --
less standard sales commissions -- when they carry the network on a broadcast-adjacent
channel position from two to 18. Operators will get 7.5 percent of ad sales for a channel
slot above 19, sources close to the matter said.
The TV stations will actually sell the local-ad avails on
the WeB in their markets, although the cable operator will share in that revenue.
The WB and Time Warner are both divisions of Time Warner
The agreement involves about 1.3 million TCI homes at
launch in September, rising to 2 million eventually, and 1 million Time Warner households.
Cable operators that sign charter deals to distribute the
WeB won't be charged license fees to carry it, said WB CEO Jaime Kellner.
Unlike a national cable network, the WeB cable affiliate in
each market can essentially be localized and cross-promoted on the broadcaster's
over-the-air station. TV stations will provide local news for the WeB in their markets.
The WeB station in each market will lead into primetime
with a one-hour double-run of Friends from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and it will follow
primetime with a one-hour broadcast of The Rosie O'Donnell Show.