Comcast Launches AnyRoom On Demand

--Says its VOD Service has Generated over 7 Billion Views since 2003

--Company's Fancast Service now Features Video from over 100 Providers

--Company to Spend up to $70 Million on "Project Canoe" this Year

Comcast, the US's largest cable MSO, last week launched a service
called AnyRoom On Demand to its digital cable customers in New

Jersey who are equipped with Motorola set-top boxes (note: the
company says that New Jersey customers with Scientific-Atlanta digital
set-tops will receive the new service later this year, and that it also
plans to roll it out in other markets over the course of the year). As its
name suggests, the new service--which requires no extra equipment and
is offered free-of-charge--allows customers to select VOD programs on
one television and view them on any other TV in the home that has a
digital cable box.

"We are delighted to bring this feature to our New Jersey digital cable
customers," Greg Arnold, regional SVP of Comcast Cable in New
Jersey, said in a prepared statement. "We are committed to providing
our customers with the ultimate TV viewing experience and the
addition of AnyRoom technology is yet another value-added feature
that allows them to view their favorite programming, whenever and
wherever they want to watch."

According to Comcast, the AnyRoom service enables customers'
"Saved Programs" list to be shared among all digital set-tops within a
household registered to the same account, thus allowing VOD titles to
be ordered in one room and then viewed in another, and also allowing
customers to watch the same program from two or more different boxes
simultaneously. To continue watching or to restart a program in another
room, customers go the "Saved Programs" folder (which is located on
Comcast's On Demand Main Menu) and select the desired program,
which will resume where left off. All titles that have been saved on one
set-top are displayed in the "Saved Programs" list on other boxes in the
household. The service works for any Comcast program that is longer
than 19 minutes.

In other Comcast VOD and ITV news:

  • The company announced last month that its VOD service has
    generated over 7 billion views and 1 billion hours watched since 2003.
    According to the company, each month people are accessing its
    on-demand programming more than 275 million times (i.e. over 100
    times a second), for a total of 130 million hours of content watched.
    "The numbers speak for themselves...each month our customers watch
    roughly 40 million movies on-demand," Derek Harrar, Comcast's SVP
    and general manager of video services, said in a prepared statement.
    "With thousands of on-demand choices, a crystal-clear HD picture and
    hundreds of HD on-demand offerings, why leave the comfort of
    home?" Comcast claims that its VOD service--called simply Comcast
    On Demand--now has a library of over 10,000 titles per month. It
    recently announced plans to significantly expand that library, under an
    initiative dubbed "Project Infinity.” It also revealed at CES earlier this
    year, that it is planning to launch a Start Over service (allows viewers
    to start over a TV program in the middle of its broadcast).
  • The company also said last month that its online service, Fancast,
    which its Comcast Interactive Media division launched at CES in
    January, now features video content from over 100 content providers.
    The service allows users to view programming, search for video
    content (whether on Fancast itself, on the Internet in general, on TV, or
    in movie theaters), and manage their content choices. According to
    Comcast, it provides instant access to around 20,000 free long- and
    short-form TV and movie videos from major networks (including CBS,
    NBC's and Fox's Hulu, MTV Networks and BET Networks) and movie
    studios at any time, with an average of 5,000 new videos a month. It
    also provides local program listings (including listings from competing
    pay-TV services), and a tool called "Watch it," that lets users know
    where (on Fancast, on linear-TV, on VOD, online, on DVD or in
    theaters) they can find a particular piece of content. Comcast claims
    that Fancast allows searches of over 11 million Web pages that contain
    information on over 50,000 TV shows, 80,000 movies and 1.2 million
    people. Later this year, Comcast says, the service will allow end-users
    to program their DVR's from their PC's, and establish a "Watch List"
    that will organize and catalog upcoming programming, set a
    personalized play list, and send reminders to them about what they
    should watch in the future.
  • The company appears to be beginning to deliver on the promises it
    made when it announced Project Infinity at CES by expanding the line-
    up of programming on its VOD service. The line-up, most of whose
    titles are available in HD, now includes a number of Hollywood movies
    available on the service the same day as they are released on DVD
    (recent examples include "11th Hour," "Shoot Em Up," "Invasion,"
    "The Brave One," "Rendition," and "Michael Clayton"); and a number
    of TV series premiering on the service at least a week before their
    linear TV broadcast (recent examples include "MTV's Real World,"
    "The Tudors" and "Flavor of Love"). Comcast also recently began
    offering the HealthiNation and Shalom TV on-demand programming
    services; and the Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area versions of the
    company's regional sports programming service, Comcast SportsNet,
    recently began offering free, on-demand coverage of Major League
    Baseball games for approximately 24 hours after those games are
    played. The move follows a decision by MLB last fall to allow such
    VOD offerings.
  • During a conference call with financial analysts in February, Comcast
    COO, Steve Burke, revealed that the company plans to spend anywhere
    between $50 million and $70 million this year on the cable industry's
    secretive national targeted interactive TV advertising and tracking
    initiative, Project Canoe. The other cable operators involved in the
    initiative are Bright House, Cablevision, Charter, Cox and Time
    Warner Cable. According to a recent article in the New York Times,
    the six operators are committed to spending a total of $150 million on
    the initiative, which is headed up by Comcast's Burke and Time Warner
    Cable COO, Landel Hobbs.
  • The company recently announced a detente with BitTorrent,
    following their recent dispute over Comcast's "traffic-shaping"
    activities. For more on this story, see [itvt]'s interview with BitTorrent
    founder and president, Ashwin Navin, in Issue 7.69.