Starz To Join Comcast's On-Demand Online Test

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Starz Entertainment is in the mix for Comcast's On-Demand Online test, set to launch this month, with the premium programmer planning to initially make 300 movies and other original programming available through and to Starz subscribers for no additional charge.

Comcast announced the plans for the 5,000-home test last month with Time Warner Inc., which will provide episodes from TNT and TBS shows.

Other programmers that have indicated they will participate in Comcast's trial include Rainbow Media's AMC, Sundance Channel, IFC and WE TV; Scripps Networks; A&E Television Networks; and Comcast Networks.

Comcast's Starz subscribers participating in the trial will have online access to movies includingWill Smith's Hancock (pictured), Vantage Point, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Wall-E, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Step Brothers, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Pineapple Express,High School Musical 3: Senior Year; Righteous Kill, No Country for Old Men and Enchanted.

In addition, Starz will feature its original series including Crash, Head Case and Party Down.

Starz said the video in the Comcast trial will be available at first in standard-definition format, with HD versions and more content added in coming months. (A Starz spokesman declined to detail what "HD" means in the context of Internet video; while HD standards specify resolution and frame rates they don't mandate compression rates.)

According to the companies, customers in many cases will have access to the content online as soon as it premiers on the standard Comcast video-on-demand service and before the titles air on the linear Starz channels.

"At Starz our goal is to allow subscribers to watch our programming whenever and wherever they want," Starz president and chief operating officer Bill Myers said in a release. "We are delighted to join with Comcast in this trial of Comcast On-Demand Online. Comcast, with its existing base of millions of Starz subscribers, robust plant and strong commitment to on demand will be a terrific partner to help explore the new world of Internet video distribution."

Matt Bond, Comcast's executive vice president of content acquisition, added: "Starz Entertainment brings some of the most popular contemporary feature films to television and we are pleased to partner with them to bring their exclusive content online to consumers for the first time ever at no additional charge to our existing Starz customers. The addition of Starz premium content to On-Demand Online's quickly growing lineup demonstrates the programming industry's desire to meet consumers' increasing demand for content online."

Comcast will randomly select the 5,000 customers from across the U.S. in the coming weeks, with a focus on testing the company's authentication technology. The service will use a log-on system for streaming content and, in the future, will allow for download content to go.