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Comcast's online video bet clearer, benefits for users unclear

Here's what we now know about Comcast's bet on the future:

Its online video program On Demand Online (also known as TV Everywhere) has been tested in 5,000 homes and will launch for real in December. It will offer free online videos to existing cable subscribers. And through an authentication process, subscribers will be able to access online videos through multiple devices even outside their homes. So if you want to watch Mad Men, you will get access to episodes on your laptop as well as through your cable box.

These details were revealed by Comcast's Amy Banse, head of interactive media, during GigaOm's NewTeeVee conference yesterday in San Francisco (so very worth following, by the way).

"Online consumption will grow there is no question of that," said Banse. "What we see as our long-term vision, our goal, is to offer content no matter where it sits for our customer," Banse said.

Here's what else we may find out soon about Comcast's bet on the future:

Comcast could be the owner of one of the biggest content companies around. It is reportedly getting closer to a deal to buy NBC Universal, which owns broadcast programming, stations and a movie business.

These are the data points that are quickly creating a clearer sketch of Comcast's plans to grow beyond their cable pipe roots into an entertainment giant that would have stronger control over a large portion of all online content (some analysts say 20 percent) and how consumers access it. It would bring more advertising revenue to Comcast's bottom line and could allow for things like same day releases of Universal movies to Comcast cable subscribers.

Public interest groups have raised concerns that such a concentration of media by the largest cable service provider in the nation could be a bad deal for consumers. They may decide on pricing models consumers won't like and could edge out smaller competitors from content by NBC Universal who would want to offer videos for free or less than Comcast, according to groups like Free Press. There would certainly be regulatory hurdles, as written in a previous post.

Comcast is not alone in its online video strategy. Time Warner and other cable and satellite companies all have their own TV Everywhere plans that are expected to come out soon.

And what could keep these companies up at night? Online video distributor Boxee said during the NewTeeVee conference that if videos are included in the iTunes store, Apple will have more subscribers than Comcast in five years.

Banse downplayed such a scenario, saying if anything customers will have more choice, be it from Netflix, Boxee or Comcast for where they get their content.

"It will be a schmorgesborg," she said.

Check out the video, courtesy NewTeeVee:

Watch live streaming video from gigaomtv at livestream.com

By Cecilia Kang  |  November 13, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Comcast , Online Video  | Tags: comcast, newteevee, online video, time warner, tv everywhere  
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Comments

NBCU is clearly a strategic move for Comcast with competition like Netflix, Apple iTunes, and Apple TV coming soon, and now with Boxee now anouncing its foray into the online content business.

Comcast is hedging it's bets on being able to stave off a migration to other formats with TV Everywhere while acquiring content to back it up.

Such a smart move by Comcast will have its 24 million customer base looking to stay with a "one stop shopping approach",just as WalMart has perfected in many small communities.

Why shop around when you can get everything in one place, and at a discount?

Posted by: leonardgrace | November 15, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Comcast allows 15 minutes of video before reducing the speed of your connection interrupting the program and deteriorating the video multiple times to the point where you won't desire to watch.

Will comcast give their own video priority? Especially since users will pay for such service?

It seems to me net neutrality is best in the long run and that comcast not be allowed into both the TV business and the ISP business (except for cable distribution.)

Posted by: cweiler2004 | November 17, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

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