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Comcast avoids carriage dispute with CBS owner Paramount

Paramount-owned broadcast and cable channels will remain on Comcast's systems under a new multi-year deal.

Paramount-owned broadcast and cable channels will remain on Comcast's systems under a new multi-year deal.

Season 5 of Yellowstone will challenge the Dutton Family like never before.
A promotional image for the hit Paramount Network series “Yellowstone.” Paramount Network is one of several Paramount-owned channels that will remain on Comcast’s TV system under a new carriage deal reached this week. (Still image courtesy Paramount Network/Paramount Global, Graphic edited by The Desk)

Comcast and Paramount Global have inked a new distribution deal that will keep Paramount-owned broadcast and cable channels on Comcast’s pay TV systems for a little while longer.

The deal will allow Comcast’s Xfinity video and Xfinity Stream services to continue receiving national Paramount-owned channels like Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, BET, Nickelodeon, CBS Sports Network, TV Land and Pop TV. The agreement also includes continued carriage of CBS-owned stations and independent outlets in major metropolitan areas, including suburban New York City and Los Angeles (excluding the cities themselves, which are serviced by Charter’s Spectrum TV), Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle (where an independent station is owned by Paramount), San Francisco and Sacramento.

The distribution agreement is expected to be similar to a deal Comcast reached with Paramount two years ago, according to a person familiar with the situation. To that end, it does not appear to include a provision that allows Xfinity TV and Xfinity Stream subscribers to access Paramount’s premium streaming service, Paramount Plus with Showtime — which means the deal won’t be structurally similar to one Charter reached with the Walt Disney Company a few months ago, which many industry insiders viewed as a new formula for future carriage deals between broadcasters and distributors.

The deal also doesn’t allow Comcast to incorporate Paramount-owned cable networks into its new streaming service, Now TV. Launched earlier this year, Now TV offers Xfinity Internet customers a so-called “skinny bundle” of general entertainment and lifestyle channels for just $20 a month, with the plan also including complementary access to Peacock Premium.

News of the deal between Comcast and Paramount was first reported by the Sports Business Journal on Friday.

A carriage dispute between Comcast and Paramount had the potential to be significantly disruptive, with CBS airing numerous college and professional football games over the next few weeks, including Super Bowl LVIII on February 11. CBS also shares rights to NCAA March Madness games, with the tournament starting March 19.

Prolonged disputes involving broadcasters and pay TV companies are becoming more common: Earlier this year, DirecTV was forced to pull more than 160 local TV stations, including a handful of CBS affiliates, owned by Nexstar Media Group as the two sides were locked in battle over how much the satellite company was willing to pay Nexstar for the rights to its channels. That issue was resolved within a few weeks.

DirecTV is currently embroiled in a separate carriage dispute with another broadcaster, TEGNA, over the same issue, affecting users who receive CBS programming from TEGNA-owned stations. As a remedy, DirecTV has told viewers whose local CBS affiliate is owned by TEGNA to install an over-the-air antenna or purchase Paramount Plus with Showtime in order to watch live CBS programming.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).