Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comcast Reels In Discovery for Web TV Trial. But No “Deadliest Catch”!

manvswild_coll1_finalAnother big player has signed onto Comcast’s Web TV trial: Discovery Communications (DISCA) is handing over a few of its shows for the cable provider’s program, which gives subscribers online access to (some) of the shows they get on TV.

Discovery joins other big names like CBS (CBS) and Time Warner’s (TWX) HBO and Turner, in Comcast’s (CMCSA) “On Demand Online,” which launched last month in a few thousand homes. The program is designed to convince Comcast subscribers to stay on as subscribers, since only subscribers will get Web access to the programming. It’s an answer to Hulu’s offering, which makes shows from News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, GE’s (GE) NBC and soon, Disney’s (DIS) ABC available to anyone with Internet access.

It’s a variation of the “TV Everywhere” program Time Warner has been touting, and similar to ones that other cable providers, like Time Warner Cable (TWC), and telcos like Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) are pursuing.

Like most of the other networks that have linked up with Comcast for the On Demand test, Discovery isn’t handing over its top-tier stuff. You can’t see “Deadliest Catch,” the network’s show about grumpy Alaskan fishermen, for instance.

Meanwhile, some of the stuff you can get will be “windowed”–the industry’s term for holding shows back from viewers to maximize TV eyeballs. Episodes of something called “Verminators,” for instance, won’t be available until a week after they air on TV. But! Comcast subscribers will be able to watch episodes of “Man Vs. Wild” and “Swords,” which will be available the day after they air.

And any full-length programming that Discovery puts on the Web is a change for the cable network, which has held off from doing so precisely because it didn’t want to upset Comcast, which pays it a hefty fee for its programming.

Related note: I hate the “On Demand Online” tag Comcast uses to describe this strategy. And the Comcast people hate it when I call this “Web TV you’ll pay to see.” Their point is that you’re not paying any additional fees in order to get this stuff on the Web; my point is that only paying Comcast subs can see this stuff, as opposed to Hulu’s free-for-all (for now) offering.

So, can anyone suggest a different name? Give me a good one and I’ll use it.

Meanwhile, here’s a “Man Vs. Wild” clip featuring a pesky porcupine:

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald