In renewing its deal to distribute the cable channels from MTV Networks, No. 1 MSO Comcast also agreed to carry the digital multicast signals of sibling Viacom divisions CBS and UPN.
The wide-ranging deal ensures that whatever multicast and high-definition programming CBS and UPN owned-and-operated stations launch will be carried to Comcast subscribers in their respective markets. Comcast will pick up CBS’s HD feed immediately, but the CBS stations’ multicast package, plus digital signals of HD-free UPN, will be picked up some time later.
That’s a significant development for broadcast digital multicasting, which has been gaining traction in the last months of the year. The carriage of digital broadcast signals is a red-hot issue in Washington, as cable and broadcasters lobby regulators over whether operators will carry all of a broadcaster’s programming. Many broadcasters are lobbying to force cable carriage of all their digital product, not just HD programming but any other channels they conjure up. Cable operators, in turn, are resisting full digital must-carry, in part out of fear that many independent stations will stuff digital channels with infomercials and paid TV preachers.
In the new deal, Viacom will also allow Comcast same-day access to the CBS Evening News, The Early Show and newsmagazine 48 Hours plus stations’ local newscasts for Comcast video-on-demand services.