Comcast launches TV, movie site

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LAS VEGAS -- Comcast Corp. is looking to broadband site Fancast and a growing stable of high-definition VOD titles to headline the company's tech efforts, following months of turbulence on Wall Street.

At his keynote Tuesday morning, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is expected to announce the official launch of Fancast, a Web TV and movie destination that grew out of his company's acquisition of Fandango last year. The site has been in beta since August.

Roberts will also announce an expansion of the cable giant's free HD VOD offerings, which includes TV, film and music videos. The HD library, part of a greater catalog of 10,000 titles, will grow from the current 300 to over 1,000 in 2008. Comcast hopes to ramp up to 6,000 films in 2009, 3,000 of which will be in HD.

Derek Harrar, senior vp and GM, video services explained that Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, will make the HD offerings available as the content companies are willing to put them on VOD. The HD content will encompass the full range of content that the company
owns.

These projects are part of a Comcast initiative dubbed "Project Infinity." The goal of the strategy is to provide a limitless library of content for consumers on any screen.

In keeping with this theme, Fancast is aiming to provide information on TV and film content and also has options for search and viewing.

The site is officially launching with over 3,000 hours of programming and the capability to search through more than 50,000 television shows, 80,000 movies and 1.2 million people.

Comcast also has deals for short-form content from ABC and short-form and long-form content, including film and TV, from the NBC Universal/News Corp. JV Hulu, CBS, Viacom, MGM and Sony. Amy Banse, president, interactive media for Comcast, said the company is
currently "talking with everyone" about more content deals.

"Fancast is really developed as a strategic asset," said Banse. "Comcast has been a place for TV and movies for 35 years and we wanted to expand on that and make consumption of content as easy as possible."

The content runs in Fancast's own player, which can be branded based on content owner, and Comcast shares the revenue created from the offerings with the content-owner.

Banse said an option to program a TV's DVR from Fancast will be available this year. The site is also working on an electronic sell-through option which will make content available to rent. She also said the company is working towards social networking capabilities, critic and peer reviews and the option for a Netflix-like queue. "The site's not fully-baked by any means," she said.

Comcast also partnered with Panasonic on Monday to unveil the AnyPlay portable DVD/DVR device. The gadget, which features 60GB of digital video recording capacity and an 8.5" folding LCD display screen, will be available in 2009.

Last month, Comcast lowered its financial estimates for 2007 and predicted basic cable subscriber losses for 2008. Some observers see the company's size as a disadvantage if the economy were to be hit by a recession, as some have predicted.
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