During lengthy efforts to get government approval of its controlling interest in NBC Universal, Comcast faced questions about its efforts to carry independent and minority-owned networks. Many feared that a single company that provides TV service to 22 million-plus homes, while owning a slew of networks, would use that combination to stifle opportunities for competitive networks.
Through concessions to get the deal cleared, Comcast pledged to launch 10 independent channels over the next eight years -- a process that has begun. The company is accepting applications for the first three.
Plans call for the first channel -- American Latino owned-and-operated with English programming -- to debut by July 28 of next year. Two others will be majority owned by African-Americans and come to fruition the same date in 2013.
It is unclear how many homes the networks will be in, but they will be on a "D1" digital tier.
Among the 10 new networks, four will hold majority African-American interest, two by Hispanics and two will be operated by American Latino programmers.
As part of a memorandum of understanding between Comcast and African-American leadership groups, Comcast has also pledged to increase distribution for networks that it currently offers that are owned by African-Americans or feature programming that targets the community. At least two will gain carriage in a new market -- either Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or Washington -- by July.
In the memorandum, Comcast said it carries 12 networks that fit the criteria, including BET, Centric, the Gospel Music Channel and TV One, where Comcast is a part owner.
Comcast also reached an agreement with Asian-American leadership organizations, where it pledged that within a year of the NBCU deal closing, it would expand distribution of a network owned by Asian-American interests or targeting the community.
And it recently said it would offer Mnet by September in Boston, Chicago, Sacramento and San Francisco.