Peter Kafka

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Comcast Launches Its “TV Everywhere” Plan Nationwide, With an Awful Name: Say Hello to “Xfinity”

fancast logoAs promised, Comcast is opening up the trial of its “TV Everywhere” program, which gives its subscribers–but only its subscribers–access to extra TV programming, streamed via the Web.

Comcast (CMCSA) will be holding a press conference shortly to walk reporters through this. But if you’re a Comcast customer who is paying for both digital cable and broadband–that’s something less than 14 15.7 million people nationwide–you should be able to check this out now, by heading to either Comcast.net or Fancast.

If things are working right, you’ll notice that Comcast has added an “xfinity TV” logo, which is the new service’s unwieldy new name. If you try to watch a show that’s included in the test, you’ll be guided through a download process that will install both a Move player and an Adobe (ADBE) AIR app, which the cable company says you’ll need to deal with only once to watch this stuff.

Once that’s done, you’ll actually watch the show via your Web browser. The login process I went through told me that I could authorize up three computers for the service.

fancast xfinity login

I’ve played around briefly with the service, via a side door, and can confirm that it does indeed work. Hard to get a good grip on what the new service is offering subscribers, though, since the Fancast menu doesn’t really delineate what’s only available to subs instead of freeloaders.

But I was able to watch some of the last episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which is only available to subs who have Comcast digital cable and broadband and are paying for Time Warner’s (TWX) HBO–and it looked pretty good (as long you don’t fast-forward).

seinfeld test

Comcast is starting its press conference now. I’ll update here if there’s anything of note:

  • The cable operator says that once you’ve logged in, you’ll be getting a “personalized” homepage that knows what shows/movies different subscribers have access to.
  • One important point: Sometime in the next year, Comcast says that simply being a Comcast subscriber will be enough to qualify you for the service, i.e., you won’t have to get your broadband from Comcast in order to watch this stuff. It’s a “dual-play” offering right now, the company, says, because that was the easiest way for it figure out the “authentication”/security element.
  • Mobile device access? Nope. Maybe next year. International? Nope. But do note that you don’t actually have to be on a Comcast connection to watch the programming–as long as your computer is authorized, you can see it anywhere you can connect (in the U.S.).
  • Key unanswered question: When will Nielsen (or someone else) figure out how to treat online views in the same way that it counts “regular” ratings–and convince advertisers to do the same? Because until that happens, you’re unlikely to see a whole lot of authorized TV on the Web, period.

And here’s the release (warning: Not much info here):

COMCAST MAKES ON DEMAND ONLINE VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE AVAILABLE NATIONALLY

Comcast Brings Top Cable Television, Movie and Independent Programming to Customers At Home and On-the-Go for No Additional Cost

Philadelphia, PA, December 15, 2009 — Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK), one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information and communication products and services, announced today that it has made its On Demand Online experience available nationally in beta at no additional cost to customers. The innovative new service now called Fancast XFINITY TV, gives customers an “anytime anywhere” entertainment experience–at home and on-the-go–and expands the video content customers can watch online by giving them quick and easy access to thousands of hours of cable TV shows, movies and independently produced content.

“Fancast XFINITY TV is a win for consumers and content producers. We’re giving customers access to content they love in new ways and opening up new opportunities for established and independent producers to make their content available on-demand” said Matt Bond, Executive Vice President of Content Acquisition. “This new service brings consumers many movies and TV shows that have never been available online before.”

Both Comcast customers and non-Comcast customers across the nation currently have access to over 12,000 hours of great online content through Fancast.com–the company’s online TV site and a top TV destination on the web–for free. Now, as a benefit of their cable subscription, Comcast customers will enjoy even more access to thousands of titles from the cable channels in their subscription packages at no additional cost through Fancast XFINITY TV.

“This is a beta product only, but the consumer feedback has been great so far. We look forward to more feedback as we make it available to even more customers” said Amy Banse, President of Comcast Interactive Media. “We think Fancast XFINITY TV gets us one step closer to our multiplatform goal and is just the beginning of delivering an entirely new TV viewing experience.”

Beginning today, any Comcast customer with a digital cable and Internet subscription can visit www.comcast.net or www.fancast.com, sign-in with their Comcast email user name and password and watch their favorite subscription content at no charge.


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