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Comcast's Studio Shelves $60 VoD Test

5:30 PM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s Universal studio unit bowed to mounting pressure from theater owners and abandoned its plan to sell Tower Heist on video-on-demand for $60 just three weeks after its theatrical debut. (See Comcast, Universal to Test $60 VoD Flick.)

The plan was for Comcast to test the pricey early-window concept with cable subscribers in Portland, Ore., and Atlanta, but major movie theater owners, including Cinemark and National Amusements, threatened to boycott the film, set to debut on Nov. 4, amid fears that the early release window would wreak havoc on their business.

It's hard to imagine that very many cable subs, who are already tightening their belts and wringing their hands over high cable bills, would shell out $60 for a movie starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller. In fact, Universal's payback here is a mountain of free publicity for the film in the wake of a little stunt that didn't even happen.

The studio owners may have won this round, but don't expect Universal to give up the fight. The studio said Wednesday it "continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD [premium VoD] window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future."

I suspect that one person who will be interested in seeing how the dust settles on this one is Starz Entertainment LLC founder and cable pioneer John Sie, who predicted about six years ago that movies would, within the span of a decade, premiere on cable and satellite TV. (See The Prescience of John Sie .)

There's still some time for that prediction to come true. He just needs Universal or some other studio to move that premium VoD window up another three weeks and for the theater owners to cool their heels and realize that $60 home movies won't destroy them.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 4:51:18 PM
re: Comcast's Studio Shelves $60 VoD Test

Free publicity, yes. I for one wasted a few minutes watching the trailer. Patrick Goldstein over at LA Times has more analysis here, pointing to inherent challenges for vertical integration, especially when those at one end (movie theatres) of the overall business have characteristics of large extinct reptiles.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:51:16 PM
re: Comcast's Studio Shelves $60 VoD Test

But, wait, i thought 3D was going to save the theater's bacon! I agree... they have more to worry about than the possibility of a premium VoD window. JB

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