The "love story" of Disney and ComcastJuly 16, 2012: 8:22 PM ET
The two media giants inked a ten-year partnership, which they discussed (very) warmly during Fortune Brainstorm.
By Jennifer Reingold, senior editor
FORTUNE -- "Those were touching comments, a real love story from two oligopolists working together," said Glen Kacher, Founder of Light Street Capital Management at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference, toward the close of the panel The Future of Entertainment featuring Anne Sweeney, co-Chair of Disney Media Networks (DIS), and Neil Smit, President and CEO of Comcast Cable (CMCSA). His comment, snarky or not, pointed up the fight over content these days: is it under lock and key, accessible on any screen to everyone who pays for it, a la the January 2012 10-year content distribution deal between Comcast and Disney? Or are these two media executives simply fighting the last war, trying to keep content restricted when that no longer makes sense in this world of piracy and Megaupload?
To hear Sweeney and Smit tell it, the deal they inked is really a sign of what's to come, and Swit himself said Comcast is open to similar partnerships. But both acknowledged that the 10-year term of the deal was something of a leap of faith, especially the way people consume media is changing so quickly. "The term was probably the biggest issue we struggled with," said Sweeney, who says they had thought seriously about making it shorter.
Both executives said the deal was an amicable one, and it sure looks like a lovefest when you think about the alternative--the ongoing disputes between Viacom (VIAB) and the Dish Network (DISH) and AMC and Direct TV (DTV). "We have had calls from every company that distributes content wanting to do this deal," said Sweeney. When asked if there was a way out of the deal—should they want it—both executives ducked the question. For now, however, it's all good.