said Monday that its fledgling cable network,
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, had cleared a key hurdle Monday, reaching distribution deals with three of the largest cable operators in the country.
Disney/ABC Cable Networks
would carry the SoapNet channel. Financial terms were not disclosed.
As a result of the agreement, SoapNet will add some 2 million subscribers this year and another 4 million over the next several years, according to Disney/ABC Cable.
The 24-hour soap opera network, which shows same-day reruns of ABC's "All My Children," "General Hospital" and other programming, was started by Disney/ABC Cable Networks in January and currently runs on cable systems with roughly 1 million subscribers. The company has said it expects to reach 4 million to 5 million homes by the end of the year.
Disney's shares rose 1 3/4, or 6%, to close at 32 3/4 Monday.
"Getting Cox, Cablevision and Charter is very significant, particular in today's world where carriage is tight," said Michael Goodman, a media analyst with Boston-based research firm
. "It's a battle for real estate."
That battle has been highlighted recently by the difficulty the new female-focused cable network
has had in securing space in key markets. Oxygen was started earlier this month with only 10 million cable subscribers and has had trouble landing distribution in New York through
Time Warner Cable
SoapNet, under the terms of the agreement announced Monday, will be available on select Cablevision systems beginning April 1.
The new cable network almost certainly benefited from its affiliation with Disney, whose cable holdings include leading sports cable network
The Disney Channel
, Goodman said. "They have a fair amount of leverage."