Comcast has positioned its Fancast Xfinity Internet on-demand service as increasing consumer choice, by letting subscribers watch shows and movies that otherwise would not have been available online.
But consumer advocates continue to charge that such TV Everywhere services are anticompetitive. Last week public interest group Free Press said, “The new business model poses a serious threat to online video competition.”
“These are transparent efforts to preserve the cable cartel that gouges consumers,” Free Press general counsel Marvin Ammori said. “Comcast wants to be the gatekeeper to the video programming world. This service is a threat to innovative online video and an attempt by the industry to impose the cable-TV model onto the Internet.”
Added Ammori, “Comcast’s power to manipulate online video is particularly troubling as the cable behemoth prepares to gobble up NBC Universal.”
Comcast clearly intends Xfinity TV to be a tool to retain subscribers by offering them a reason to keep paying for cable in the face of growing competition from sources of online video. And, according to the MSO, the approach will give programmers new ways to reach viewers.
“Fancast Xfinity TV is a win for consumers and content producers,” said Comcast executive vice president of content acquisition Matt Bond in a statement. “We’re giving customers access to content they love in new ways and opening up new opportunities for established and independent producers to make their content available on-demand.”
The Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, is reviewing Xfinity and similar services, but only to get a better handle on them for now, chairman Julius Genachowski said.
“I’m sure the [Media] Bureau is looking at that and proactively trying to understand it,” he said after the FCC’s public meeting last Wednesday. “But beyond that, it is not something that has gotten a lot of discussion at this point.”
John Eggerton contributed to this report.