Xfinity and Beyond: A Guide to Comcast’s New “TV Everywhere” Service
Last week Comcast unveiled Fancast Xfinity TV, the nation’s first “TV Everywhere” service, which aims to preserve the cable business model by enabling cable subscribers to access premium programming online by “authenticating” that they are indeed cable subscribers. The big push behind Fancast Xfinity TV (which replaces the OnDemand Online trial service) raises questions about Comcast’s plans for Hulu, the ad-supported online video service backed by NBC Universal, News Corp. and Disney, now that Comcast has a deal to acquire a majority stake in NBCU. For now, here’s our thumbnail guide to the new service:
What’s Fancast, what’s Xfinity and who can get it?
Fancast is Comcast’s online video service that anyone with a broadband connection can access. The Xfinity part is the premium stuff you get if you’re a Comcast subscriber (with a Comcast.net e-mail address) who already gets premium channels like HBO.
According to ComScore, Fancast attracted 10 million unique visitors a month in November following a fall marketing campaign that helped boost October traffic to 11.3 million.
Who runs Fancast?
Karin Gilford, a former Yahoo exec, is senior VP and reports to Comcast Interactive Media President Amy Banse. The Fancast team numbers several hundred employees located in Los Angeles and Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters.
Who’s selling it and what’s the ad model?
Scott Schiller is senior VP ad sales. He also oversees Fandango, Movies.com and Plaxo.
Advertising will be inconsistent on the service, at least at first, as programmers experiment with different ad loads. Some programs, such as those from TNT and TBS, will have full 2-3 minute commercial pods, while others may have the typical Web-load of individual 15- to 30-second spots. Gilford suggests that Fancast is also selling display ads around the content.
“There’s a lot of experimentation taking place with advertising online,” says Matt Bond, executive VP of content acquisition, adding that there were no hard and fast rules for programmers to abide by.
What can you watch?
Content from 27 partners, mostly cable channels like TBS, Comedy Central and HBO. Fancast is also a partner with Hulu, which makes broadcast content from Fox, ABC and NBC available to its users.
What’s the reaction to Xfinity?
Here’s a sample of the chatter picked up on Twitter (including an indication that folks are already looking for ways around the whole “authentication” bit):
@typeoh: Fancast adds premium channels… very smart move.
@willvuong btw the fancast, not super impressed; similar choices to hulu & to access premium you need to have those channels on cable.
@nerdpac: Damn “Caprica” is on Fancast for free and I just ordered the DVD on Amazon. This new media takes some getting used to. Glad I only paid 6$.
@marvin981: Looking for a #comcast Login for #Fancast and Streaming TV. I willing to Pay!
Fancast’s Gilford says 2010 will bring plenty of innovation, including the ability to control the TV screen from the laptop, searching for shows, programming the DVR and even switching channels.
“We’ve always heard about the frustration of navigation and seen the way people get access to content on the Internet,” she says. “It is so much faster and easier to find what you want quickly. Instead of pushing and pushing on what the remote can do, what we need to do is build the technology and get more interaction with the actual set.”