Cable Operators

Nets Jump Into Comcast’s Online VOD Trial

6/25/2009 3:13 PM Eastern

Comcast's nationwide Internet-TV test set to begin next month is expected to include not only shows from TNT and TBS, but also full-length episodes from Scripps Networks, Cablevision Systems' Rainbow Media, A&E Television Networks and Comcast Networks, according to industry executives.

Other programmers -- including Viacom's MTV Networks, Disney/ABC Television Group, CBS and NBC Universal -- said they will not be in the mix initially, but are keeping their options open to possibly work with Comcast and other cable operators and distributors in the future.

Comcast on Wednesday announced it would work with Time Warner Inc., which has been leading the push to get cable programming online with its "TV Everywhere" concept, to launch the trial in July. The MSO said the test will provide 5,000 subscribers access to top-rated shows from the two Turner Broadcasting System networks, at first exclusively through Comcast.net and Fancast.

But the trial won't be confineJon Hamm of AMC's Mad Mend to just TBS and TNT content.

Rainbow Media's AMC (home to Mad Men, pictured), Sundance Channel, IFC and WE TV are participating, according to a spokeswoman for the Cablevision unit, and Scripps, AETN and some Comcast-owned networks will be part of the trial as well.

AETN networks include A&E Network, History and Bio. Comcast Networks brands include E!, Style, Golf Channel, Versus, G4, PBS Kids Sprout and TV One.

Scripps executive vice president of affiliate sales Lynne Costantini, in an e-mailed statement, said brands such as Food Network and HGTV "enjoy a strong connection with a passionate base of consumers who likely would find value in this type of service."

"We are committed to providing viewers with content on the platforms on which they engage with our brands, in a manner that adds value to the viewing experience and enhances our current business relationships with distributors," Costantini said. "Our participation in the Comcast authentication pilot will help us make some initial assessments regarding this innovative platform."

Meanwhile, an MTVN spokesman said the programmer is not currently slated to participate in the Comcast test, "but we are in ongoing discussions with Comcast about authentication testing."

Similarly, Disney/ABC Television Group won't be in the initial trial but a spokeswoman said, "We look forward to talking to Time Warner and Comcast about the specifics of the plan and learning more about the technical trial with TNT and TBS. Meeting the needs and expectations of consumers is our main priority and we will continue to provide selected content on the web consistent with existing practices and business models. We remain open to adoption of an authentication system that could provide consumers with enhanced offerings, such as a simulcast network or more robust content."

CBS, for its part, said: "We are in favor of any proposal to help extend our business in such a way that is open and nonexclusive; consumer friendly; and responsible to our advertisers and shareholders. Initiatives like TV Everywhere and On-Demand Online are the very reason why we believe it's imperative to control our own programming online. We look forward to continuing discussions with cable operators -- and all distributors -- to seek partnerships that recognize the value of our content."

News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks, whose properties include FX, said it was not participating in the Comcast trial.

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