Free VOD boosts Comcast

Profits jump at cabler

Comcast prexy-chief operating officer Steve Burke said Wednesday that the cabler has chalked up double-digit profits so far this year because of massive amounts of free video-on-demand programming and a popular $99-a-month triple-play offering of video, voice and data.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference in Gotham, Burke said VOD and triple play have not only added more Comcast subscribers than anticipated but slowed the loss of dissatisfied customers still plaguing many cable operators.

With Comcast on a roll, Burke shrugged off a question about Steve Jobs’ prediction that Internet delivery of TV shows would make cable unnecessary. “Steve Jobs wants to take over the living room, and he has access to lots of Disney product,” Burke said. “But if Jobs is getting Disney content, then we’ll get the same Disney content.”

Burke said that as late as two years ago, it was “unthinkable” that Comcast would be able to offer hit CBS primetime shows like “CSI” and “Survivor” for free in VOD the next day and to share in the revenue from the ad spots. Comcast and CBS announced this initiative earlier this month after experimenting with both pay-per-view and sponsored episodes of CBS series.

Comcast also gets NBC shows like “The Office” and “Las Vegas” the next day in VOD, but customers have to pony up 99¢ for each episode. Burke predicted the cabler will get next-day VOD plays of TV shows from ABC and Fox soon.

Burke said Comcast is planning to beef up its own Web site with lots of free content stuffed with advertising that can be downloaded to computers and, in some cases, transferred to DVDs, iPods and portable media players.

There’ll also be PPV product available for downloading on Comcast.com, but Burke said he’ll steer clear of monthly subscriptions for the programming because Comcast’s focus-group surveys and other research show that people don’t like to pay sub fees.

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