ViacomCBS, Comcast Strike Carriage Deal

Agreement includes integration of CBS All Access streaming app on X1, Flex set-tops
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ViacomCBS has struck its first major carriage deal since completing its merger in December, a sweeping agreement with Comcast that spans retransmission consent of its owned and operated stations, carriage of a handful of cable networks and a pledge to integrate the CBS All Access streaming app on the cable operator’s X1 set-tops.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, includes retrans for 23 CBS O&Os and carriage of cable networks Showtime, CBS Sports Network, Smithsonian Channel and Pop TV. In addition, Comcast said the CBS All Access app will be available on its X1 and Flex platforms later this year, and it will provide authenticated streaming of the CBS broadcast network and CBS Sports Network for the first time.

“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement to continue to bring CBS’ industry-leading entertainment, sports and news content from the CBS Television Network, Showtime, Smithsonian Channel, Pop TV and CBS Sports Network to millions of Xfinity customers, and delighted to offer these customers access via X1 and Flex to CBS All Access for the first time,” ViacomCBS president U.S. Networks Distribution Ray Hopkins said in a press release. “We look forward to discussing the entire ViacomCBS portfolio with Comcast in the future.”

CBS-owned stations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, as well as CBS-owned The CW affiliates in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, will continue to be distributed to Xfinity customers.

In addition, two MyNetwork affiliates will be available in Boston and Miami and the CBS-owned independent station will be available in New York.

“ViacomCBS has been a great partner, and we are very pleased to have reached this agreement to provide Xfinity X1 and Flex customers with more access to their content across multiple platforms,” said Comcast Cable SVP video and entertainment Rebecca Heap in a press release. 

In a research note, Evercore ISI media analyst Vijay Jayant said that because the deal was reached about five months before it was due, he believes it was likely favorable to CBS. He noted that it last negotiated a retrans deal with Comcast about a decade ago, and likely it had been receiving rates below the current market. 

And though the carriage deal does not include legacy Viacom networks like MTV and Comedy Central, Jayant thinks one of the main objectives of the current agreement is to align the expiration schedules between the CBS and Viacom assets.

"We now think it likely that ViacomCBS will be able to renegotiate all networks co-terminus when the new agreement expires," Jayant wrote. "This dynamic should remove downside risk associated with the next Viacom / Comcast carriage renewal."