Cable Operators

Comcast Shows Off Super Stuff

1/30/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

When 100,000 fans descend on Jacksonville, Fla., over the weekend of Feb. 5, the local Comcast Corp. system will do all it can to hitch its brand to the event that has drawn them all there: Super Bowl XXXIX.

Comcast has an ongoing relationship with the big game’s venue, Alltel Stadium, formerly the Gator Bowl. Its signs are already a fixture in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ renovated home.

For the big game, the cable company will add a sales trailer to the site to demonstrate its various products, said Doug McMillan, regional vice president of operations.

HD HOT LOCALLY

HDTV has been available in Jacksonville since April 2003 and there’s always been strong interest in it, system executives said.

“The coolest thing about it is if you want to watch high-definition on Fox” — which will televise this year’s National Football League title game — “you have to either get an off-air antenna or buy HD from Comcast,” McMillan said. Executives said they’ve confirmed that neither DirecTV Inc. nor Dish Network will offer the championship in HD. The system markets HDTV for $5; an HDTV digital video recorder is available for $9.95.

“We have certainly seen an increase in requests for the service recently that we attribute to the Super Bowl. We expect the trend to continue as the event approaches,” he added.

Jacksonville-area customers will have something extra to watch on their HD sets, too. Comcast has made special arrangements with NFL Network. Normally available on digital basic, the channel will be offered to analog customers on Ch. 57 from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7 for its Super Bowl-related programming. For HD customers, the NFL channel will appear on Ch. 166.

The National Football League also invited the cable operator to participate in its NFL Experience entertainment venue from Feb. 2 to 6. There, Comcast will be demonstrating its high-definition service.

Within the stadium, Comcast will expand a popular feature. For a year and a half, the cable operator, in partnership with ESPN, has offered fans at Jaguars games the chance to “star” in an episode of ESPN’s SportsCenter. Fans who queue up can read a one-minute script from the sports show. The “performance,” tagged with a Comcast commercial message, is stored on a server so the fan can access the video and download it at home.

Typically, 50 to 60 fans at each football game avail themselves of the opportunity. For the Super Bowl, though, Comcast expects this to be a very popular souvenir.

On Feb. 6, those who wish to film a spot will be charged a nominal fee, which will be donated to charity. McMillan said the fee was instituted to cut down the line.

'BIG GAME TV’

The system is also converting channel 7, its local-origination station, into “Big Game TV.” Local advertisers were offered the opportunity to participate in infomercials on where to eat or play in the region. The channel won’t offer any football or news content, said McMillan —just video of interest to tourists.

Advertiser reception of the infomercial option was “a lot better than we expected,” McMillan said. They may have been attracted by the fact the stadium holds about 70,000 people, which means an estimated 30,000 will arrive without tickets.

They will be interested in ways to entertain themselves outside the game.

The proximity of the Super Bowl did not translate into more commercial business, however. Businesses already have long-term deals with their provider of choice, executives said.

September