Video services

Comcast 'Hitz' Movie VoD Service to Hit Cinemax

Comcast is about to put on the "Hitz" -- and perhaps land a significant hit on Cinemax's customer base.

The MSO is inching toward the launch of Hitz, a commercial-free VoD movie service with more than 200 titles, that will be included in many of Comcast's pay-TV packages at no added cost while also replacing Cinemax and the premium programmer's associated channels (in addition to the primary channel, Cinemax also offers separate genre-focused channels such as More Max, Action Max and Thriller Max). Comcast said it will still sell Cinemax as a standalone for an additional $12 per month.

Per this Comcast post about Hitz, the new offering, available as part of the company's Xfinity Premiere, Super and "certain other TV packages," will feature a rotating crop of more than 200 movie titles "from a variety of top studios." When it becomes available, Comcast subs will be able to locate Hitz by saying, "Hitz" into the X1 voice remote, or by seeking it out under the Networks section of Comcast's VoD menu.

Comcast has yet to announce a launch date for Hitz or provide a list of movies that will be featured on the service and which studios will support the new offering.

Streampix is still a thing
Comcast still offers, but does not heavily promote, Streampix, another video service that features a library of commercial-free movies and TV shows on set-top boxes and via the company's Stream app. According to the current Streampix FAQ, Comcast offers Streampix for no added cost to triple-play customers and to subs on its Blast! Plus and Internet Plus tiers, or for $4.99 per month on an à la carte basis.

CableFAX reported that Comcast plans to roll out Hitz in July. Comcast filed for the Hitz trademark in late April.

As for removing Cinemax from many of its TV packages in favor of Hitz, Comcast reasoned that "[m]ost of the movies on Cinemax have also aired on HBO. By offering Hitz instead, we'll be delivering customers a better variety of content."

Cinemax currently offers movies such as Justice League, Goodfellas and Black Swan, but also features several original programs and series, including Warrior, The Knick, Banshee, and Outcast. Jett, a new Cinemax original starring Carla Gugino, is set to premiere on June 14.

Though Comcast will continue to sell Cinemax à la carte, the decision to pull Cinemax out of its various TV packages will no doubt reduce Cinemax's viewership base. Comcast ended Q1 2019 with 20.85 million residential video subscribers but does not break out how many were on packages that included Cinemax.

WarnerMedia has been asked for comment about Comcast's decision to pull Cinemax from several of its video packages.

Direct-to-consumer moves
Though Comcast is pitching the addition of Hitz as a value play, the move coincidentally enters the picture as various programmers continue to develop and launch new direct-to-consumer OTT services and attempt to extract more value out of their libraries.

Among them, AT&T's WarnerMedia, which owns Cinemax, is preparing to launch a set of subscription VoD services later this year that will be centered on HBO and complemented by the Warner Bros. content library. Though these new SVoD services will be offered direct-to-consumer, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has also stressed that traditional pay-TV providers, such as Comcast, will also play a key role in their distribution.

Comcast's NBCUniversal unit, meanwhile, is preparing to launch its own OTT service next year that will be available for free to Comcast's and Sky's pay-TV customers and on a standalone basis. That service will support both subscription and advertising business models.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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