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Comcast and Project Infinity

comcast-project-infinity.jpg

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.

6 Responses

  1. About time – a la carte programming is way overdue. Would these content owners please get their heads out of their collective rears. Can’t they see that this will unlock income, not sacrafice it.

    In regards to the reported habit of people buying individual songs, rather than albums, this is sad news. For a well chosen album, from a reputable or well reviewed artists, the entire album is like a journey. The lead track (the ones that get played) are often only for radio value – some of the best tracks are the ones that take longer to love.

  2. [...] launch of Fancast is on par, in my mind, with the Comcast Project Infinity announcement, which critically promises huge increases in on-demand and HD programming. As I’ve said before, [...]

  3. [...] will offer 3,000 HD movies on-demand by the end of [...]

  4. [...] year at CES, TV service providers were not highly visible (especially compared to last year), but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Word at the Motorola booth suggests there [...]

  5. [...] to extend bandwidth. Indeed, Xfinity sounds like an evolution of Project Infinity, which was launched at CES a couple of years ago as an initiative to greatly expand both HD and VOD content. The idea that [...]

  6. [...] do. That’s changed, and a lot of credit goes to Comcast for making VOD a priority with the launch of Project Infinity back in 2008.  People like VOD now. A lot of them (me included) rely on it. Web video is great, but it’s [...]

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