There’s a lot to like about the renewed carriage deal hammered out between Viacom and Time Warner Cable. While most news reports characterized the agreement as essentially a defensive move on TWC’s part to avoid another bruising battle with a major programmer in the wake of its disastrous blackout of CBS in August, both sides actually got a fair amount of what they wanted in the deal.
Notably, TWC appears to have gotten significant out-of-home streaming rights through its own app. According to the press release, “The multiplatform agreement provides for continued carriage of Viacom’s channels and content across linear television in both SD and HD, VOD, authenticated websites and apps. Along with the TWC TV app, subscribers will be able to enjoy on-demand content within apps from Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, CMT, and Comedy Central.”
When TWC first launched its iPad app, which restricted viewing to in-home streaming only, it led to litigation with Viacom. For the new deal to include both in-home and out-0f-home streaming through the TWC app marks a significant improvement in TV Everywhere deal making (in contrast with TWC’s dispute with CBS, which in part concerned the network’s determination to keep TVE rights out of the deal).
For its part, Viacom got distribution of EPIX on Time Warner Cable for the first time. EPIX, a joint venture among Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate, was launched originally as a multi-platform channel but was always more popular among online platforms eager for content than among traditional pay-TV platforms, where it has long struggled to gain carriage. Adding TWC’s footprint to its traditional distribution is an important “get” for Viacom.
Viacom also stands to benefit from the added out-of-home and mobile availability of networks like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon via TWC given the demographics and peripatetic habits of their audiences.
To be sure, Time Warner Cable needed to avoid another CBS-like debacle. But Viacom, too, had incentive to avoid a protracted fight over carriage. Viacom’s networks suffered ratings disasters in 2012 as a result of a prolonged blackout on DirecTV over a carriage dispute, capping off a long slide in ratings for some of its biggest channels. It’s taken Viacom a long time to recover the ratings and programming momentum it lost in 2011 and 2012 and a protracted battle with the nation’s second-largest cable MSO could have interrupted that hard-won momentum.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when both sides in a deal have something equally important to gain and plenty to lose.