IFTA and Comcast/NBCU Strike Deal On Access To Independents

IFTA does not oppose merger, says president of independent producers group
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Comcast,
NBCU and the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) have struck an
agreement on "enhanced opportunities" for independent 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 year, 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; and Comcast agrees
to create a process for considering independent 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 Senator Al Franken
(D-Minn.) during Senate 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 12.

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