Evidence is mounting that Comcast is getting close to launching a trial service called the Xfinity TV Store that will sell movies and prior seasons of select TV series before they are available on DVD or for rent through other services.
Word of the video download store, which will allow customers to buy titles via set-tops and PC/laptop browsers, and play them back on a range of mobile devices, began to surface last week.
Details about the new service, which will count competitors such as iTunes, Vudu, M-GO and Target Ticket, confirm that titles will be offered in the early electronic sell-through (EST) window. “Titles are often available for purchase before they are available for rent or on DVD,” the site explains. “Availability of titles for purchase or for rental on Xfinity On Demand is subject to content agreements.”
Comcast launched two apps under the "Xfinity On Demand Purchases" label – one for iOS devices, and another for Android-powered devices – on November 15 that will enable playback, but not direct purchases. A web page with information about the new service also has emerged.
A link to a Web site (xfinity.com/store) where customers will be able to purchase titles directly appeared to be active Sunday night when customers in some markets signed in with their credentials. The new feature had yet to appear in the set-top box VOD menu as of early Sunday night in the Philadelphia market.
Examples of movie titles offered for sale early on include Admission, Les Miserables, Jurassic Park, The Bourne Legacy, Despicable Me, Bridesmaids, E.T., The Host, The Purge, Mama, The Lorax, Jaws, Oblivion, Ted, and This Is 40. An HD copy of Oblivion runs $15.99, while the SD version fetched $10.99. An HD copy of Bridesmaids sells for $14.99, versus $9.99 for an SD copy.
"TV Shows are coming soon. Stay Tuned!" the Xfinity TV Store noted on Sunday night.
According to the Web site dedicated to the new service, the Xfinity TV Store will be offered first in certain trial markets, though the trial markets were not identified. Multichannel News asked Comcast for more detail on those trial markets Sunday, and will provide more details once they are known.
But plenty of other details are emerging. For instance, up to three devices, such as computers, mobile phones or tablets, may stream purchases titles at any given time. Up to three different devices can be registered to a customer’s account to download purchased movies for playback while on the go.
Purchases made via set-top boxes are limited to boxes with access to Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand service, which will offer content available for purchase under the “Movies to Own” and “TV Shows to Own” sections. Purchases made on set-tops will appear on the customer’s next Comcast bill.
PCs require an Internet connection of 1 Mbps or faster with Microsoft Silverlight installed and an HDCP-compliant device for high-definition playback. Macs need the same speed requirements, but will not be able to utilize HD playback early on. Customers can purchase titles on Mac and PCs with a credit card.
Comcast said it could take up to 30 minutes for a title to appear on devices other than the one where a customer made the purchase.
Apple and Android mobile devices also will not support HD playback at the early phase of the launch. However, if customers purchased HD titles, they can stream or download the standard-def version for playback on those devices.
The new service’s FAQ also walks through a variety of scenarios in which customers change or alter services or end up leaving the MSO.
If customers disconnect the Comcast TV service but remain Comcast Internet or voice subs, they can continue to purchase and access titles at xfinity.com/store and access titles via the Xfinity On Demand Purchases app or via an Xfinity website.
If customers disconnect from Comcast completely they can still watch purchased titles on an Xfinity website and on certain mobile devices, “but you may need to complete a transfer process within 60 days of cancelling your account,” the FAQ reads.