Mobile services

Comcast Connects With Plaxo

After a lengthy business partnership and courtship, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Plaxo have finally decided to tie the knot.

Following a rumor that first surfaced in mid-February, the nation's largest cable MSO confirmed that it has signed a deal to purchase the Mountain View, Calif.-based social-networking specialist. Financial terms weren't disclosed, but the earlier gossip had the deal valued at about $175 million. (See Comcast Paying for Plaxo? )

Plaxo and its 50 employees will remain an "independent operation," reporting into the Comcast Interactive Media (CIM Labs) division, which, among other things, is the division that heads up Internet video hub Fancast. (See Comcast Fires Up Fancast.) They expect the deal to close "in the near future."

So, what does Comcast want to do with Plaxo, anyway? Better yet, what plans does the Comcast Interactive Media division have for Plaxo, which claims to have nearly 50 million registered users? LinkedIn, another networking service, has about 20 million users. In comparison, Facebook has about 70 million "active users," with MySpace clocking in with roughly 117 million users, most of those being pimply teenagers and really horrible bar bands.

For starters, Comcast and Plaxo are hardly strangers. At last year's Cable Show in Las Vegas, Comcast announced plans to integrate Plaxo with the MSO's PC-based, dashboard-style "SmartZone" unified messaging system that provides high-speed Internet subs with access to their email and voice mail messages, an instant messaging app and an integrated address book. (See Comcast Gets the (Unified) Message .)

But there are other plans afoot, according to a few details Plaxo revealed via a blog post from three execs: CEO Ben Golub, founder and chief architect Cameron Ring, and founder and VP of products Todd Masonis.

"Comcast has an exciting vision to bring the social media experience to mainstream consumers," they explained, noting that Plaxo will continue to develop its networked address book and a new social network called Pulse.

Also on the product roadmap: integrating its capabilities with the MSO's customer portal, and CIM "interactive entertainment properties," including Fancast, Fandango, and the operator's traditional cable television service. As one example, Plaxo says Comcast subs will be able to post photos on the Pulse service and share them with others via the Web, mobile devices, and television screens. Users will also be able to recommend and rate television shows with friends and family.

OMG! Comcast was not immediately available for further comment Thursday morning. WTF?

Cable's new trendy thing?
Based on recent product announcements, social networking capabilities are starting to seep into cable's consumer products, particularly when it comes to software that's going to drive future digital video navigation and video-on-demand (VOD) services.

For example, "community" recommendations is one of the components of a new navigation system from NDS Ltd. that Cox Communications Inc. is planning to deploy in higher-end hi-definition and HD-digital video recorder boxes starting next year. (See NDS Navigates Its Way Into Cox.) Earlier in the week, SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), one of Comcast's primary VOD partners, introduced "Affinity," a Web-based social networking app that enables users to recommend and discover content from ever-expanding VOD libraries. (See SeaChange to Restart & Personalize VOD .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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