Another One Bites the Dust

The wheels on the dotcom deals go round and round. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has bought yet another Web property. On the heels of its Plaxo and Fandango purchases, Comcast bought Movies.com from a unit of the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). (See Comcast Connects With Plaxo and Comcast Buys Fandango.)

Fandango was announced as the buyer and is integrating Movies.com into its Web portal. Fandango's content, applications, and commerce capabilities are, in turn, integrated into Comcast's Fancast.com portal. (See Comcast Unit Buys Movies.com .)

In crowing about the acquisition, Fandango noted that its site now reaches 6.3 million monthly unique visitors, dwarfing the 1.9 million film junkies who visit Movies.com each month. While both sites offer insider movie information, reviews, and trailers, Fandango sells movie tickets through the Web for theaters totalling more than 15,000 movie screens.

Ironically, Movies.com was hyped in 2001 as a joint venture between Disney and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) that would sell Internet video-on-demand (VOD) services, enabling the studios to make big money by bypassing video distributors like cable MSOs. Fox bailed on the JV a year later, though. How fitting that it's now Comcast -- the world's largest cable operator and VOD provider -- that's taking Movies.com off Disney's hands.

Also from the irony file, Movies.com was born from the team that created MrShowbiz.com, a movie and entertainment site created by Paul Allen's Starwave Entertainment Group. Disney bought Starwave in 1998.

While Disney and other studios were counting on the Internet to bypass the likes of Comcast, in the end, it appears Comcast may have turned the tables on that approach, creating and buying assets that have even further strengthened its leverage as a Hollywood distributor.

An interesting question: will Comcast be able to leverage its distribution clout to cajole studios into equalizing cable VOD, Internet VOD, and DVD movie release windows?

With its latest purchase, Comcast has made yet another step toward delivering on an über interface for its customers' complete video content needs across all devices, formats, and screens: theater, broadcast TV, computer, set-top box, DVD, DVR, VOD, and mobile. (See Comcast Weaves Video Web.)

— Michael Harris, Chief Analyst, Cable Digital News

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