Discovery Channel is the 24th network to link up with Comcast's technical trial of On Demand Online, providing full-length episodes from four of its shows to the subscribers participating in the test, the companies announced Thursday.
The tasting menu of Discovery content, to be available to the 5,000 Comcast beta testers starting this week, includes the fourth season of Man Vs. Wild and episodes of new series Swords the day after they air. In addition, the programmer will provide past episodes of Storm Chasers, and episodes of Verminators will be available one week after air.
In the trial, initiated last month, Comcast is providing episodes on Comcast.net and Fancast for no extra charge to subscribers who take cable TV, broadband and at least one premium movie channel. The MSO has said it could launch the service to all customers as early as the fourth quarter of 2009.
"Building on our long-standing relationship with Comcast, we are pleased to participate in the On Demand Online trial to create an online viewing solution that appeals to growing consumer demand for convenient access to their favorite programs while continuing to drive value for distributors, programmers and advertisers alike," Discovery president of domestic distribution and enterprises for Bill Goodwyn said in announcing the partnership.
Absent from in Comcast's online trial for now, however, is material from Discovery's popular "Shark Week" franchise or other notable shows such as MythBusters, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch or Planet Earth.
Comcast's other programming partners announced so far include HBO, CBS, TNT, TBS, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, AMC, BBC America, DIY Network, Fine Living Network, Food Network, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, History, IFC, MGM Impact, Sundance, WE tv, E!, The Style Network, G4 and Fearnet.
Major programmers that are not currently participating in the trial include Viacom's MTV Networks, whose properties include Nickelodeon and Comedy Central; NBC Universal, which owns USA Network and Bravo; News Corp.'s Fox; and Disney/ABC Television Group.
Matt Bond, Comcast's executive vice president of content acquisition, said the initial response from customers participating in the On Demand Online trial "has been overwhelmingly positive, and with the addition of popular networks such as Discovery Channel it will only get stronger. We are very excited about the future of this service and the increased access and flexibility it will bring to our customers."
In the nationwide trial, Comcast is using Move Networks' adaptive-rate video player and the video-management capabilities provided by Comcast's thePlatform subsidiary. The MSO has said its focus is to test the authentication technology that allows customers to receive the same content online for free that they subscribe to on TV.