Comcast's Roberts Outlines Strategy for a Broadband TV World
(10/25/05 itvt – Newsletter) In an address before the Executives' Club of Chicago last Wednesday, Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts, provided some insight into how the cable MSO plans to stay competitive in a media world where content providers can offer video directly to broadband-equipped consumers. According to a report on the address published in the Chicago Tribune, Roberts conceded that broadband Internet video-on-demand will eventually render the traditional cable TV business obsolete, and said that Comcast's increasing focus on VOD should be seen as part of its efforts to adapt to this emerging reality: "We really do believe in change," Roberts said. "Other operators looked at on-demand and backed away because it's disruptive. We said 'Let's do it.'" According to the Tribune report, Roberts stated that Comcast needs to adapt to the emerging media landscape of on-demand, Internet-delivered video by becoming more like Google--i.e. by providing sophisticated yet easy-to-use video search services.
The MSO says that over a billion programs have been viewed on its Comcast On Demand VOD service this year to date--well ahead of previous forecasts that a billion programs would be viewed on the service over the course of the entire year. Last year, Comcast subscribers viewed approximately 567 million VOD programs. Comcast's VOD service currently offers around 3,800 programs, 95% of which are offered free of charge (note: Comcast's focus on free on-demand content has irked some content providers) According to the company, which launched its VOD service in its home market of Philadelphia in late 2002, its most-viewed VOD categories include music, movies, sports and children's programming. Its most-watched free VOD program this year has been "1,2 Step," a music video from pop artist Ciara, which has garnered a total of 3.2 million views to date. Another Ciara video, entitled "Oh," has been the second-most popular VOD offering on Comcast this year. The most-watched children's program for 2005 has been "The Chaperone," an episode of the show, "SpongeBob Squarepants," which has garnered 1.3 million views. (Note: Comcast defines a "view" as beginning when a customer selects a program from its VOD menu and ending when the program is deleted from the saved programs file; pauses, rewinds and fast-forwards are counted as part of the original view.)
Time Warner Cable, NBC Universal in "Start Over" Deal
("Start Over" Service is Based on MystroTV Technology)
(10/25/05 itvt – Newsletter) Programmer, NBC Universal Cable, and MSO, Time Warner Cable, have signed a wide-ranging carriage agreement, which, among other things, gives Time Warner Cable the right to offer certain programs from NBC, USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Sci Fi and other NBC Universal channels on its Start Over service. The latter, which is expected to launch later this year, will allow Time Warner Cable customers to restart TV shows that are already in progress; however, it will not allow them to fast-forward through commercials. The service is based on technology that was developed under the auspices of Time Warner Cable's now-defunct MystroTV project. The deal also gives Time Warner Cable the rights to VOD content from NBC News (including its flagship shows, "Nightly News" and "Meet the Press") and (for the first time) its various cable properties including MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews", "The Abrams Report," and CNBC's "Mad Money" and "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo"). In addition, it calls for NBC Universal to develop "interactive opportunities" for Time Warner Cable and to participate in several of the MSO's new technology trials. NBC Universal Cable president, David Zaslav, said in a prepared statement:
"This multi-faceted agreement with Time Warner Cable demonstrates our commitment to providing our affiliates with the services they need to drive their businesses... Customers will continue to have access to one of the top-rated cable networks on television, USA, while also having the opportunity to utilize new technologies like Start Over. Additionally, we expect Start Over will help deliver more engaged viewers to our advertisers. From HD to VOD and interactive TV, our customers will get to watch the valuable programming we have to offer, from news to entertainment, in new and exciting ways."