Comcast Unit Readies VOD to Go


San Antonio, Texas —The Comcast Media Center is still nailing down plans to distribute on-demand content — such as packages of Hispanic, kids and sports programming — to cable operators apart from its parent, Comcast Corp., officials said last week.

Dean Nelson, the Media Center’s director of national sales, described his unit’s bullishness about marketing a national video-on-demand platform to the entire cable industry during a panel at the National Cable Television Cooperative’s Winter Conference.

“My job is to commercialize things that our facility has done for our company,” Nelson said. “The next thing we’re doing is working on a distribution plan [for VOD] outside of Comcast.”

The Comcast Media Center first announced it was considering offering a service to deliver VOD and HDTV to other MSOs at last year’s National Show.

Last week, Nelson offered an update, describing content that is high on the list for such distribution, including Hispanic and other ethnic programming, sports highlights and children’s shows.

Comcast already provides National Football League highlights on VOD to its own subscribers, an offering that has been very successful.

“We’ve done some work with the NBA [National Basketball Association], and they’re pretty excited about it,” Nelson said.

Gary Travers, the Media Center’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, stressed last week that his facility would only act as a delivery platform for VOD, managing content for programmers.

“A cable operator still has to go to the content provider and execute a license agreement with them,” Travers said.

In contrast to VOD, Nelson told the NCTC that at this juncture there is no workable business model for the Media Center to distribute a package of HDTV services to customers like the NCTC.

“We’re still running the business model,” he said. “We haven’t met the trigger point, but we’re still working on it.”

The Media Center would need a commitment of a certain number of subscribers, which Nelson declined to specify, before it could market and deliver an affordable platform of HDTV services to the industry, he said.

But the Media Center is trying to bolster HDTV by creating a low-cost HD-channel origination facility so networks can more easily enter the business, according to Traver.

At the NCTC meeting, the Media Center and Motorola Corp. also described how the new Headend In the Sky Quick Time Plus offering will enable small operators to deploy VOD.