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Also: Liberty Global set to grow with Virgin buy; jury dings AT&T for $27.5 million; cable video losses to slow in 2013; Charter shoots down antenna ad

Comcast Watchathon Nets VoD Boost

Jeff Baumgartner
News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
3/29/2013
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Welcome to the broadband and cable news roundup, T.G.I.F. edition.

  • Comcast Corp. claims its Watchathon Week, a promo that's offering a free pass to more than 3,500 TV episodes from 30 programmers on set-tops and IP-connected tablets and smartphones, is boosting video-on-demand (VoD) usage as designed. (See Comcast Goes On a VoD Binge and Comcast Plans to Pump Up VoD Usage.) "Customers are definitely catching up in force during Watchathon Week. We're seeing double-digit percentage increases in views across platforms so far," said Maggie Suniewick, vice president of video services at Comcast Cable, in a statement to Light Reading Cable. "Premiums are doing extremely well, and we expect that to continue as customers catch up leading into the season premiere of Game of Thrones on Sunday night," she added, in reference to the hit series from HBO. Another tidbit: Showtime Networks Inc.'s Shameless has been the most-viewed premium network series online (via Xfinity.com/tv) during Watchathon Week. The VoD tilt runs through March 31, offering access to the full VoD libraries of HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax, whether customers subscribe to those premium services or not. Xfinity TV customers with access to Comcast's VoD service are eligible for Watchathon Week, so most of its 21.25 million digital video customers can partake in it. On April 1, Comcast is set to follow with "Catch-Up of the Week," which will present a mix of current and past seasons of hit shows and series each week through the end of the year.
  • Liberty Global Inc.'s $23.3 billion play for U.K.-based Virgin Media Inc. should generate "mid-single-digit EBIDTA growth," driven by increased service bundles and small business services penetration, wrote ISI Group Inc. analyst Vijay Jayant, in a research note earlier this week. He also expects LGI to report 1.5 million net subscriber adds once Virgin Media is in the fold. The firm expects the European Commission to okay the deal by mid-April, with shareholder votes set for late May/early June, putting it all on target for a closing in the second quarter. (See Liberty Makes $23.3B Play for Virgin Media.)
  • AT&T Inc. is on the hook to pay $27.5 million for infringing two patents owned by Two-Way Media LLC after a San Antonio jury rejected AT&T's effort to invalidate the patents, Bloomberg reports. The patents in question cover technology tied to live streaming and data usage gathering. Bloomberg notes that Two-Way also sued Akamai Technologies Inc. and Limelight Networks Inc. on similar grounds, but ended up getting a settlement.
  • North American cable operators have managed to slow video subscriber losses in recent quarters, but don't expect them to stop the bleeding this year. Multimedia Research Group (MRG) predicts that cable operators in the region will lose less than 1 million of them in 2013, thanks in part to a mix of improving economic conditions and new video service packages and features. The top nine U.S. cable operators lost about 1.41 million video subs in 2012, down from 1.6 million in 2011, according to Leichtman Research Group Inc. (LRG). (See Good News/Bad News For Cable TV.)
  • Meanwhile, Charter Communications Inc. is not taking too kindly to those that promote the idea of cord-cutting. Antennas Direct, which makes over-the-air antennas, says Charter rejected an ad for competitive reasons, reports NewTeeVee. Here's one of the ads, which chats up how the antennas provide access to "tons of free HDTV" and promotes this cable unfriendly URL: antennasdirect.com/dumpcable. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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