Anticipating that speed won't be as great a
competitive advantage for cable-modem services in the future as it is now, one of the
cable industry's largest high-speed Internet providers beefed up its content
offerings last month.
Comcast Corp.'s Comcast Online Communications launched
redesigned "In Your Town" city guides for its Comcast@Home cable-modem
subscribers, featuring 13 new content partnerships, including a number with cable
programmers such as American Movie
Classics, Bravo, E! Entertainment
Television's E! Online and The Weather Channel.
"In two or three years, people will be able to get
speed from a lot of sources," said Guarav Suri, director of content for Comcast
Online. "But by providing a more balanced content offering, as well as high-speed
access, we'll have more value to the consumer and a better chance of attracting
people who are not just early adopters."
Internet analysts applauded Comcast's move to focus on
"It's right in line with what you're seeing
going on in the industry right now," one consultant said. "Big media companies
like [The Walt] Disney [Co.] are spending a lot of
money to buy into portals because that's where people are getting information and
[what they are] using as a home base. Cable companies won't have a monopoly on speed
in a few years. Others may not be as fast, but they'll be pretty fast. So
concentrating on exclusive content makes sense."
AMC, for example, will deliver American Pop programming (its Web-based service) about
popular culture to Comcast, while TWC will provide customized weather information for all
of the In Your Town city guides.
In addition to improving content for cable-modem
subscribers, both Comcast and cable programmers said the partnerships also help to
increase brand awareness for the service and the networks.
"This is a valuable co-branding opportunity,"
said Jody Fennell, national-accounts director for TWC. "We each have a strong brand
presence, and by customizing our pages for each city, we're giving a good benefit to
our cable partners, while extending our own reach at the same time."
Joe Cantwell, executive vice president of media
distribution and development for Bravo Networks, pointed to the promotional potential of
the partnership, citing the recent premiere of a documentary on film director John Waters
The film, Divine Trash, was produced by Next Wave, a
Bravo company, and it will be shown on The Independent Film Channel next year. After the
premiere in Baltimore (Waters' hometown), Bravo provided exclusive clips and coverage
of the event to the Baltimore.com Web site.
The Comcast redesign also includes an improved user
interface, with new functions that make it easier for Internet users to navigate the Web
and to access content from the In Your Town sites.
Other content partners now on the sites include AccueNet,
Bloomberg L.P., The Box, Classifieds 2000, IFC, LookSmart, OnHealth.com, Smart Route and