Another One Bites the Dust

Michael Harris
Michael Harris

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 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 into its Web portal. Fandango's content, applications, and commerce capabilities are, in turn, integrated into Comcast's portal. (See Comcast Unit Buys .)

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 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, 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 off Disney's hands.

Also from the irony file, was born from the team that created, 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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