Cable Operators

Comcast: VOD’s Top Dog

5/02/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

After years of wrangling, Comcast has finallly
roped shows from each of the four big broadcast networks
into its video-on-demand service.

Last week, Comcast became the
first pay TV provider to offer current
television series on VOD from ABC,
CBS, Fox and NBC, after reaching
agreements with ABC and Fox to add
23 of their TV series to its free video-
on-demand service the day after
their premiere on air.

The addition of ABC and Fox
programming nearly doubles the
amount of TV series now available
from the major broadcast networks
to 56, most of which are in HD, according
to Comcast. The operator
said its VOD lineup now includes
27 of the 50 top-rated Nielsen shows
and hopes to eventually land the
rights to all 50.

“We’re the only place you can get
shows from all four major networks,”
Marcien Jenckes, Comcast’s senior
vice president and general manager
of video services, said.

Starting April 28, the 23 TV series
from ABC and Fox began to roll
out, including Glee, The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives
and Grey’s Anatomy. Shows from CBS and NBC currently
on Comcast VOD include NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, The Good
Wife
, The Office and 30 Rock. The four broadcasters provide
the four most recent episodes of each series on Comcast’s
VOD platform.

The ad models for free VOD vary by network and sometimes
by show, with some of the content fast-forward disabled
and others providing full trick mode, according to
Jenckes. CBS and NBC shows have fast-forward enabled,
while for some ABC and Fox shows, fast-forward is disabled.

Some programs carry the same ad load as linear broadcast
to take advantage of Nielsen’s C3 and C7 ratings
(which credit views within three and seven days, respectively,
after air). “Other networks are looking at different
ad loads and some are looking at using the VOD for linear
tune-in promotions,” he said.

Comcast is testing dynamic VOD ad insertion — in
Richmond, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla., systems — and expects
to roll out the capability to its entire footprint in 2011,
Jenckes said. The MSO also is looking to provide some addressable-
advertising features, to target VOD ads based on
anonymized third-party data on subscribers.

“The [advertising] model is emerging,” Jenckes said. “We
are working closely with the programmers to evolve this.”

With the addition of ABC and Fox, Comcast will offer
more than 600 series from broadcast,
cable and premium networks,
including AMC, Bravo, E!, FX, MTV,
Nat ional Geographic Channel,
Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, Telemundo,
USA, HBO, Showtime, Starz and
Cinemax.

Overall, Comcast says it now offers
25,000 VOD titles in 80% of its
footprint, in markets where it has
deployed Library Server (also referred
to internally as the Comcast
Content Distribution Network, or
CCDN). Including online, the operator
offers a total of 60,000 shows and
movies available across VOD, online
and the Xfinity TV iPad app.

It’s worth noting that none of the
current TV content on Comcast’s
VOD service is available through
Netflix.

And Comcast has claimed that
usage of its on-demand service outstrips
Netflix in the cable company’s
markets. The MSO said a March 15
report from research firm NPD Group that found Netflix
dominates the digital movie market with 61% share followed
by Comcast at 8% was inaccurate. That’s because,
according to Comcast, the research firm’s study includes
all the movies streamed via Netflix’s on-demand service
— but includes only movies from cable, satellite or telco
TV providers for which an additional per-movie fee is
charged.

Comcast says its VOD service recently passed 19 billion
views and now averages 350 million views per month. The
operator had 22.8 million video subscribers as of the end
of 2010; of those, 19.7 million are digital subscribers who
have access to VOD.

September