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Video services

Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'

LAS VEGAS -- CES – Offering a glimpse of what Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) chairman and CEO Brian Roberts has in store here at Tuesday morning's keynote, the largest U.S. MSO has embarked on an ambitious plan to greatly expand its vault of on-demand movies and complement it with its Web-based Fancast.com video site.

Under an initiative called "Project Infinity," Comcast plans to offer more than 1,000 high-definition (HD) "choices" by the end of 2008, reflecting a mix of linear content and a broader offering of video-on-demand (VOD) titles. That's up from about 250 HD choices the MSO offers today.

Looking further ahead, Comcast expects to offer more than 6,000 movies a month, with more than half of those in hi-definition, in 2009. It did not go into a lot of technical detail about how it will make it happen, but did note that Project Infinity will tap Comcast's fiber network and national IP backbone, and serve video from a massive system of library servers at key locations across the country.

The expansion is largely driven by competition. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) plans to offer more than 150 HD linear channels and 1,000 HD-VOD titles by the end of 2008. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), meanwhile, announced this week that it will expand its local HD footprint and offer about 100 HD channels later this year, up from 76. DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) kicked off 2008 with more than 85 linear HD channels. (See Dish Serves Up More HDTV and HD Hopefuls Abound at CES.)

The MSO said HD is the fast-growing category in its VOD library, which includes "free" movies from Sony, MGM, and its FEARNet service, and premium titles from Starz, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and The Movie Channel.

Today, Comcast offers north of 10,000 VOD selections each month, with movies representing about 1,300 of that total. The operator claims to have surpassed 6 billion "views" since 2003, delivering about 275 million views on a monthly basis.

Comcast is complementing its VOD expansion with the official launch of Fancast.com, a Web-based service that allows customers to find and manage TV shows and movie titles from a variety of sources, including the traditional cable guide/lineup, the Internet, on DVDs, or in local movie theaters.

Fancast, which initially became available in the form of a public beta last fall, is an outgrowth of the Comcast.net customer portal and the MSO's acquisition of movie info site Fandango. (See Comcast Buys Fandango and Comcast Weaves Video Web.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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