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Comcast trial draws networks

On Demand Online service gears up

Comcast has enlisted CBS Corp., A&E, AMC, E! and 14 other cable outlets to participate in its On Demand Online trial, set to begin by the end of the month.

Comcast and Time Warner teamed last month to plan a technical trial of a service that will make cable programs available to cable subscribers for broadband viewing online. Users will have to enter a password to prove that they are cable subs in order to access the programs (Daily Variety, June 24).

Comcast’s initiative is an effort to make more cable programming available on an on-demand basis without alienating cable operators, who fear they’ll lose subscribers if top cable shows are served up for free online. The plan is to test-drive the service with 5,000 Comcast subscribers around the country for a few months to work out technical kinks prior to a planned national rollout.

HBO, TNT, TBS and other Time Warner-owned cablers were already onboard the initiative spearheaded by Comcast and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

Selected CBS shows will be offered as part of the trial but, at present, CBS does not plan to offer any shows from its pay cabler, Showtime. The Eye is the first of the major broadcasters, which have come to rely on cable retransmission coin as a revenue source in recent years, to embrace Comcast’s experiment.

NBC, Fox and ABC are aligned as partners in Hulu, the fast-growing Internet service that hastened viewers’ embrace of online vid for free access to full-length episodes of top shows with advertising embedded. It’s believed there’s been some discussion between Hulu and Comcast about a possible partnership on a password-protected vid offerings down the road.

Other cablers signing on with On Demand Online include Starz, BBC America, History, IFC, Food Network, Hallmark Channel, Sundance Channel and WE.

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