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Comcast Plans to Pump Up VoD Usage

Jeff Baumgartner
3/4/2013

Comcast Corp. has a couple of projects underway that aim to amp up video-on-demand (VoD) usage on the set-top as well as on IP-connected tablets, smartphones and PCs. A big one coming this month is a promo called Watchathon, which will give Comcast customers free access to the company's VoD vaults on set-tops and the MSO's TV Everywhere platform. "Our premium providers, content providers, as well as many of our other networks, are going to give their assets to use for free for a week, and we are going to provide it across all the platforms," Comcast cable unit President and CEO Neil Smit said Monday at the Deutsche Bank AG Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Florida. One aim is to remind customers that Comcast's VoD platform offers access not just to a wide array of movies, but also to current and past seasons of TV shows. Promoting the latter is becoming increasingly important as the operator tries to drive more revenue into the category by implementing dynamic ad insertion. Offering a free taste of premium on-demand fare, meanwhile, could also help Comcast drive more subscriptions of HBO, Showtime and Starz. (See Comcast Ready to Mine for VoD Gold.) In a related but separate move aimed at getting customers more engaged with its VoD platform, Comcast confirmed that it has recently extended its Queue app to set-top boxes. Previously offered only via PCs and Comcast's tablet and smartphone Xfinity TV apps, Queue lets customers track specific movies and TV shows. If a title is offered, Queue will give the customer a shortcut to watch the program immediately. The app upgrade now synchs a customer's Queue on tablets, PCs, smartphones and set-top boxes.

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Comcast's Queue app has taken a more prominent position on the company's set-top-based user interface.
Queue and the coming Watchathon promo come into play as Comcast's VoD platform feels pressure from over-the-top competitors such as Netflix Inc., as well as from other pay-TV service providers. Coincidentally, NPD Group Inc. released a study Monday showing that U.S. cable still controls 56 percent of the $1.3 billion transactional VoD movie market, but lost 4 percent of it to Verizon Communications Inc. FiOS, AT&T Inc. U-verse and the major U.S. satellite TV operators.
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Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, meanwhile, generated more annual VoD movie-rental revenue per subscriber ($25.29) than cable ($13.83) during 2012, according to the study. DirecTV Group Inc. and Dish Network Corp. combined for an average of just $10.33. Comcast says it's averaging about 400 million VoD views per month but does not break that figure down by how many are for transactional VoD purchases versus "free," ad-supported VoD views. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable
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