Subscribers Can Order 'Law and Order' for 99 Cents

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC Universal has wrapped up its first agreement to supply broadcast network programming to Comcast’s video-on-demand platform starting in May. The deal, which follows a similar agreement between Comcast and CBS in December, will offer digital cable subscribers NBC shows such as “Law and Order” and “The Office” for 99 cents.

However, only cable systems in markets served by NBC’s owned-and-operated stations will carry the content. Cable programming is also part of the deal -- “Celebrity Poker Showdown” from Bravo, and “Battlestar Galactica” and “Ghost Hunters” from Sci-Fi Channel. Both cable networks are part of NBC Universal.

Breaking a deadlock
The deal breaks a long-running deadlock between the two companies over payment for VOD content. Comcast had insisted on partners providing their material for free and share in potential ad windfalls once the platform is more established, while NBC Universal had lobbied for payment upfront, arguing that there was a cost associated with making material available off network. The two seem to have finally reached a compromise.

NBC Universal Cable President David Zaslav, who spearheaded the deal, is wringing both subscription and ad revenue from the company’s broadcast network and cable shows. An NBC Universal spokeswoman said VOD shows would carry advertising, but not the same commercials that appear on the networks.

The companies would not detail the financial split of either the subscription or advertising revenue or the length of the partnership. Comcast would not reveal of how popular the VOD service has been so far, but pointed instead to the 2 billion VOD views since 2004.

Talking to ABC and Fox
A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed that the Philadelphia-based cable systems operator is also in talks with ABC and Fox to get their content on the VOD platform too. ABC's strategy, so far, has been to offer programming via Apple's iTunes platform, with plans to sell shows from its own Web site under the MyABC banner. Fox has largely struck VOD content deals with corporate sibling DirecTV and is expected to make its social networking site MySpace.com the home for on-demand content. In addition to its Comcast deal, CBS has been working on expanding partnerships with Google and Yahoo.

NBC made two other digital media announcements this week. Yesterday, the peacock network said it would add “Scrubs” to its lineup of network shows on iTunes. While “Scrubs” is made by rival ABC parent Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Television, the two parties have agreed to make the entire current season available. NBC also announced that “The Apprentice” is following “American Idol” down the interactive path, giving viewers the chance to vote for their favorite candidate via NBC.com. While public opinion won’t decide the winner, host Donald Trump said he would take the vote into consideration when he makes the final choice.

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