Comcast Fires Up Fancast
The service -- from Comcast Interactive Media (CIM Labs) , a division of the cable giant -- draws from sources including iTunes, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), and Comcast itself. Its offerings include more than 3,000 hours of streaming video, including some long-form movies and television shows.
The launch marks the first time a cable operator is using the public Internet to deliver video and services outside its regular cable territories. Comcast has not announced any Fancast partnerships with fellow cable operators.
"This is very much a national Website," says Sam Schwartz, CIM's executive vice president of strategy and development. "Our approach here is to be very open."
Fancast could grace television screens as well, through set-tops with Docsis cable modems, or even VOD systems that make content available to older boxes.
Fancast, which has been through multiple software releases since the beta launch, is an outgrowth of the Comcast.net customer portal and the MSO's acquisition last year of movie info site Fandango. It's also a component of Comcast's just-announced "Project Infinity" initiative. (See Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity', Comcast Buys Fandango, and Comcast Weaves Video Web.)
Fancast lets users sift through: local TV and movie information, with movie tickets buyable through Fandango; Comcast's video-on-demand (VOD) platform; and DVD offerings, through partnerships with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iTunes, Netflix, and the Amazon Unbox service.
"We'll be able to tell you where that [video] lives, and how to access it," CIM president Amy Banse told Cable Digital News Monday afternoon ahead of today's official launch.
Fancast visitors can personalize the site, tap into its recommendation engine, and give it local flair by inputting their ZIP codes.
Later this year, Fancast will let Comcast's cable customers manage and set digital video recordings remotely via the Internet, Banse said. Also on the roadmap are community features like critic and peer reviews.
Fancast.com's 3,000 hours of programming include full-length movies and TV shows from sources such as CBS, NBC, and Fox. The video back-end is provided by thePlatform Inc. , a media publishing company that's now part of Comcast. ThePlatform performs similar functions for other IPTV services including Hulu, which is supplying a portion of Fancast's video library.
About 11 million Web pages make up the Fancast universe, which includes data on 50,000 TV shows and 80,000 movies, CIM claims. Fancast's "Six Degrees" feature is powered by a store of information on about 1.2 million actors, directors, producers, and other people associated with video, including, presumably, Kevin Bacon.
CIM officials decline to say how much traffic Fancast has generated during its beta phase, but they say they're impressed with the numbers.
Although today marks the "official" launch of Fancast, the beta label will remain for about another six months, Schwartz said.
Fancast will produce revenues from display ads and from commercials inserted into the streaming video feeds. Although the site aims to make money, "it was developed as a strategic asset" for Comcast, Banse said.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News