July 15, 2009

CBS, 17 Cable Networks Join Comcast’s Nationwide Web TV Trial

CBS Corporation and 17 cable networks have announced an agreement to sign on to a technical trial of Comcast Corporation's OnDemand Online service.

The new service will significantly expand the number of top-rated TV shows available online and across platforms at no additional charge to Comcast's cable customers, and seeks to deliver increased ad value to content owners. 

CBS, the first major broadcast network to join the program, plans to test various types of current and library content during the course of the trial.  

Philadelphia-based Comcast had previously signed a number of content providers, including HBO, TBS, TNT and Liberty Media's Starz, on to the program.

The latest additions bring to 23 the total number of programmers who have signed on to the trial since it was announced last month.

"CBS is very supportive of initiatives that help extend our content to new platforms in such a way that we gain new audiences and additional value for our advertisers," said Quincy Smith, CEO of CBS Interactive, in a statement announcing CBS's involvement in the trial.

"Comcast is already a trusted platform to distribute CBS content on air as well as on demand; expanding this relationship online is a logical step," he said.

"CBS and Comcast share the same vision of giving consumers more "” more content, in more places," said Matt Bond, Executive Vice President of Content Acquisition at Comcast Cable, in a press release about CBS's participation in the trial.

"On Demand Online is a major step in extending consumers' television experiences online, and ultimately across platforms by giving any television network, including top brands like CBS, the ability to make their content available on the Web," he added.

CBS's move follows last month's joint announcement between Time Warner Inc. and Comcast that introduced a set of principles developed by the two companies called "TV Everywhere."  The principles are intended to serve as a framework to facilitate deployment of online television content in a consumer-friendly, pro-competitive way.

Comcast will be testing the On Demand Online service in 5,000 subscriber households in the weeks ahead.  The trial will allow these subscribers to view hundreds of movies and TV shows that were previously unavailable for legal streaming via the Internet.

The subscribers will be asked to login to Comcast.net and Fancast.com to view the content, which for now will be streamed online to computers.  Downloads to mobile devices are a future possibility.

The test seeks to address an issue faced by cable programmers, who increasingly believe the ad revenue model being tried by sites such as Hulu.com is not profitable enough to support online video. 

Instead, the networks taking part in Comcast's trial hope that offering online video only to paying subscribers will allow them to maintain the fees they charge from pay TV operators while simultaneously meeting subscribers' requests for Internet programming.

The 17 cable networks that agreed to join the trial on Tuesday are A&E, AMC, BBC America, DIY Network, Fine Living Network, Food Network, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, History, IFC, MGM Impact, Sundance Channel, WE tv, E! Entertainment, The Style Network, G4 and Comcast-owned Fearnet.


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