Comcast Befriends the Mouse

The cable operator confirms a distribution pact with Disney and agrees to buy its stake in E! Networks.
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Comcast

(CMCSA) - Get Report

and

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

confirmed a long-term distribution deal that will allow the cable operator to offer free programs from Disney's ABC network on its "on demand" service.

In conjunction, Comcast also agreed to buy out Disney's 39.5% stake in E! Networks for $1.23 billion. The move will give Comcast 100% ownership of the cable channels, which include E! Entertainment Television and the Style Network.

The announcement of the distribution agreement late Tuesday ended a round of speculation in the stock market after

The Wall Street Journal

first reported in the morning that a deal was imminent.

The pact will allow Comcast to offer free ABC prime time programs like

Desperate Housewives

and

Lost

on demand. The relationship will include 10 ABC-owned broadcast television stations and other Disney networks. Also, the companies formalized their ESPN2 HD agreement and said Comcast will launch ESPN Deportes, a Spanish-language sports network.

"This is one of the broadest distribution agreements in the history of our company," said Disney in a press release. "Disney's great brands and great content combined with Comcast's leading distribution platforms provide an incredibly compelling consumer experience in sports, family, news and entertainment."

The

Associated Press

reported that Comcast will pay Disney about $1 billion annually in return for access to its content, but no financial terms of the deal, aside from the sale of E! Networks, were disclosed in the companies' press release.

Shares of Disney closed up 11 cents to $33.23, while Comcast finished the session down 11 cents to $40.68.