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Cable Operators

Comcast Deal Fans Plans for a Web Guide

4/13/2007 8:00 PM Eastern

Butter up the popcorn: Comcast is acquiring movie-ticketing site Fandango, which will provide a core piece of an online entertainment portal — Fancast.com — the No. 1 U.S. cable operator has slated for a summer launch.

Comcast didn’t disclose financial terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close in the second quarter. Wachovia Securities analyst Jeff Wlodarczak estimated the multiple-system operator paid $200 million for Fandango, whose backers include seven of the 10 largest U.S. movie exhibitors.

“Adding Fandango to Comcast Interactive Media and creating Fancast.com will enable us to leverage our combined assets to offer consumers an outstanding entertainment experience,” Comcast Interactive Media president Amy Banse said in announcing the deal last week.

Comcast said Fandango will provide e-commerce capabilities for its other Web properties, including Comcast.net, and add traffic and revenue. Fandango sells tickets for 1,300 theaters — representing 15,000 screens — via the Web, a toll-free number and mobile phones.

CEO Chuck Davis will continue to run day-to-day operations at Los Angeles-based Fandango, which has about 60 employees.

While Fandango will retain its current business, Comcast will churn the site’s core elements into the Fancast.com entertainment guide. Fancast will “enable consumers to search, discover, manage and enjoy their entertainment experience across many devices and channels, including television, computers, DVDs and wireless services,” Comcast said.

Fancast.com will let visitors search for TV shows, movies and actors, and provide some streaming-video content.

The idea: to deliver personalized information about how someone can view video entertainment — on Comcast cable channels, video-on-demand services, at a movie theater, on the Internet or on a DVD sold by Comcast or a partner.

Eventually, the site will let the operator’s video subscribers set their digital-video recorders to record specific programs.

The site also is expected to incorporate features of TVplanner.net, Comcast’s online grid-listing guide.

The operator could give a boost to Fandango, which currently trails rivals AOL Moviefone and Movie Tickets.com in terms of traffic. In February, according to Internet audience-measurement firm ComScore, Moviefone had 11.5 million unique visitors, while MovieTickets.com had 4.3 million and Fandango had 3.8 million.

September