Comcast Adds Video Screens to Guide

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Comcast has deployed a video-based interactive program guide that can display up to six live channels simultaneously to about a quarter of its digital-cable footprint, and its home base of Philadelphia is among the systems to get it next.

The guide, called Comcast Central, is available on 5.7 million of the approximately 19.5 million digital set-tops boxes deployed, senior director of corporate communications Jenni Moyer said. Chicago is the biggest system where the new video guide has been deployed.

The main screen of Comcast Central features continuous video with guides providing updates on TV shows, movies and on-demand programming.

The video-navigation application presents a live view of what's currently on as many as six channels in three categories: sports, news and kids programming. A viewer can't change which channels appear on the screens but, according to Comcast, the mosaic rotates among several channels. The audio for a channel plays when a user highlights its window.

Moyer said the operator demonstrated the “video-rich navigation” application two years ago and began rolling it out last year. It was developed by the Comcast Media Center and GuideWorks, a joint venture between Comcast and Gemstar-TV Guide International.

The video guide features run on GuideWorks' iGuide IPG, which is currently available only for Motorola boxes.

About 75% of Comcast's deployed set-tops are supplied by Motorola, and nearly all of them run iGuide (the exception is Washington state, which uses an IPG from Microsoft). The remaining 25% are Scientific Atlanta boxes and run SA's SARA guide. GuideWorks is porting iGuide to run on SA platforms; that version is expected to be available in the third quarter.

Information on Comcast's video-based program guide is available at www.comcast.com/newguide.

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