Comcast Sells Net Videos

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The Comcast Interactive Media team was busy over the Labor Day weekend with the launch of 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 entertainment portal into direct competition with the likes of Apple’s iTunes and in paid-for digital video distribution.

The strategy is to supplement the thousands of Fancast’s free-to-view, 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 (see “Can Comcast Deliver TV 2.0?”, Aug. 18, 2008, page 22).

Comcast Interactive Media president Amy Banse said in a recent interview that by providing multiple avenues to content, “we believe that consumers will get an on-demand experience when they want it, where they want it.”

Banse also said that within the next 12 months, Comcast expects to let subscribers watch Internet-delivered content on their TVs.

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.

In addition to launching the video store, Comcast redesigned elements of the Fancast site. The new look features a larger video player and new sections, such as “Today’s Top 5” most-watched videos.

The Fancast Store offers more than 1,600 movies — variously available for rent, on a download-to-own basis 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.

Comcast spokeswoman Kate Noel said the Fancast Store was developed internally by the Comcast Interactive Media group. The subsite ( 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.