The 5,000 Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) subscribers taking part in the company’s planned online VOD trial this summer will have access to 300 movies and some original programming from Starz Entertainment—if they already subscribe to the premium network. The Comcast On Demand Online trial is the first toe in the water for the largest U.S. cable operator—and the most public effort right now showcasing the TV Everywhere concept championed by Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Starz is the first premium net to sign on for the experiment; talks are are ongoing with others, including HBO and Showtime.
The idea behind On Demand Online and TV Everywhere is to give pay video subscribers access to the same programming across platforms: if you pay to get it on cable, you should be able to access it via broadband on PCs and mobile devices. In this case, subscribers would have to pay for the Starz Premium service in order to see movies like High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Hancock and Vantage Point. Ditto for Starz original series Crash, Head Case and Party Down.
Comcast’s technical trial is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks and will cover some 5,000 subscribers nationally. In addition to showing programmers and advertisers how the concept can work, the major focus of the test is the technology needed to “authenticate” a user has the right to see that content no matter where they are or how they are viewing it. To start, the service will be streaming but plans also call for download to go. Initially, content will be accessible through Comcast.net and Comcast video portal Fancast.com.
—Windowing: According to Comcast and Starz, in many cases the movies and originals will be online as soon as they premiere on cable Comcast VOD and before they air on the linear channels.
More to come.
By Staci D. Kramer