Top U.S. cable operator Comcast has reached a carriage renewal with Paramount Global, averting a potential blackout of service around the New Year’s holiday.
The deal, confirmed to Deadline by a Paramount spokesperson, comes before the expiration of the current pact at the end of the year. In January 2022, Paramount (then known as ViacomCBS) and Comcast announced a “multi-year” carriage renewal.
Talks proceeded quietly in recent days, without any of the consumer-facing warnings about looming deadlines that often accompany carriage negotiations. A blackout would have been ill-timed for both parties, given that Paramount carries the NFL and other marquee programming. The company’s flagship broadcast network, CBS, is slated to broadcast the Super Bowl in February, with cable sibling Nickelodeon providing an alternate telecast.
The new agreement provides for continued carriage of Paramount’s entertainment, news and sports channels and apps on Comcast’s Xfinity TV and internet platforms. It is understood that the deal skirts the kind of outcome some industry observers had predicted, with the loss of linear carriage for some of Paramount’s two-dozen-plus channels. When Disney reached terms with Charter Communications last September, the pact included gains for streaming services like Disney+ but also the loss of carriage for well-penetrated networks like Freeform and FXX. As they contend with subscriber erosion due to cord-cutting, programmers are looking to avoid near-term shocks like having channels outright dropped as the entire industry continues to shift toward streaming.
Paramount CEO Bob Bakish has focused on mending fences with distributors since taking the top job at Viacom in 2015, a process that has grown more complex since the boom in direct-to-consumer streaming. The distribution effort is playing out against a larger dealmaking backdrop for Paramount. The company and its controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone’s National Amusements, have recently entertained offers for some or all of its assets as it continues to face a host of challenges like the soft advertising climate, streaming costs, cord-cutting and pressure on theatrical moviegoing.
Paramount is nearing another distribution crossroads in 2024 as its current deal with Charter winds to a close. The parties signed a multi-year deal in mid-2021, with streaming a key component. Charter’s management team has said it will use the latest Disney deal as a template for its future distribution agreements.