Comcast Debuts Fancast Store To Compete In Video Downloads

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Comcast over the Labor Day weekend quietly launched the Fancast Store, an electronic storefront that offers more than 3,000 digital downloads of TV shows and movies for rent or purchase.

The move puts Comcast’s Fancast digital entertainment portal into direct competition with the likes of Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.com.

The strategy is to supplement the thousands of Fancast’s free-to-watch, ad-supported episodes and movies with paid downloads. Comcast executives have said their goal for Fancast is to build it into a destination where consumers can find any TV and entertainment content they’re looking for, regardless of release window.

While Fancast’s earlier iterations had provided links to certain titles from its database if they were available on iTunes, Comcast has pulled off all links to other download services.

The Fancast Store offers more than 1,600 movies—variously available to rent, download to own or both—and 1,500 TV episodes available for purchase. Pricing starts at $3.99 for 24-hour movie rentals; $9.99 for digital movie purchases; and $1.99 for TV shows.

Initial partners for the service include movie studios 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures. TV shows include Fox’s 24 and Family Guy, Warner Bros. Television Group’s Chuck and Gossip Girl, and E!’s Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

The service uses Microsoft’s Windows Media digital rights management system, and works only on Windows XP or Vista computers.

Media-industry blogger Dave Zatz, in a post Wednesday about the Fancast Store, speculated that Amazon.com is powering the service.

However, Comcast spokeswoman Kate Noel said the Fancast Store was developed internally by the Comcast Interactive Media group. The service is based largely on the media-management system built by Comcast subsidiary thePlatform, with some assistance from In Demand Networks, which is jointly owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.

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