Comcast announced several new initiatives today including Project Infinity, a plan to increase HD and on-demand content significantly in 2008. How significantly? By the end of 2008 Comcast says it will offer more than 6,000 movies on-demand per month, and more than 3,000 of them will be in high-def. The move comes not a moment too soon.
The CE industry has exploded with on-demand services – from Vudu, to ABC content on the Xbox, to Amazon Unbox on TiVo, to iTunes on the Apple TV. However, the cable industry has a huge existing customer base, and as long as the MSOs can rival on-demand offerings from CE companies, consumers are going to stay right where they are, handing over monthly subscription fees to their cable operators. The proof is in the pudding. Comcast now states that it has surpassed six billion on-demand views in five years.
Interestingly, we started a discussion at the end of the panel session I attended yesterday about what on-demand means for both consumer browsing habits and network brands like HBO. People I’ve spoken to disagree on the importance of being able to browse channels rather than just point to a show they already know they want to watch. I still like a combination of browsing and on-demand viewing, but others are ready to ditch browsing, and it certainly looks like we’re headed toward a world of all on-demand TV all the time. For network brands (HBO, TNT, TBS, etc.) this could have an unintended consequence. When everything is disaggregated, how does a brand hold up? We’ve seen examples of this already in the music industry. Few people buy full artist albums anymore. They pick and choose songs, just like people could end up picking and choosing TV shows instead of checking out what’s on HBO tonight.
We still have much to learn about the impact of moving to an on-demand TV model. But it’s clear when Comcast makes noise about VOD at the Consumer Electronics Show (Was Comcast even here a few years ago?) that there’s a lot we’ll be learning fast.
And that’s not even getting into the launch of Fancast. More on that some other time.