Comcast announced a pair of deals Thursday with A&E Networks and premium cablers Showtime and Starz that bring new features to its digital platform, Xfinity TV.
The cable operator’s subscribers will be able to access a deeper trove of programming from A&E, History and Lifetime–each of which is launching new branded apps–than will be available to non-subs. While these apps will be available on iPad immediately, they won’t make it to other iOs- or Android-powered devices until early next year.
Xfinity TV is also taking the unprecedented step of allowing subs to download programming for offline consumption at no additional cost from Showtime and Starz (including its Encore and Movieplex channels). That functionality has heretofore been reserved to electronic sell-through offerings like iTunes, which facilitates downloads on an a la carte basis.
The A&E Networks’ apps will allow viewers to stop watching mid-episode and pick up exactly where they left off at a later time. A queue functionality will also automatically deliver the latest episode to the app for any series the viewer selects.
The difference between availability of full-episode programming of basic cable hits like “Duck Dynasty” and “Project Runway” between subs and non-subs is that entire past seasons of these series will be accessible to the former group. Varying amounts of in-season programming will be available to non-subs but probably the same content that can be freely accessed on the websites of those networks.
Other distributors are expected to join Comcast early next year in offering A&E Networks’ channels.
Comcast’s new offline consumption functionality will be available on the Xfinity TV Player app on both iOs and Android devices. Subs who also happen to be Verizon Wireless subs will be able to download Showtime or Starz content directly to mobile devices via Verizon’s 4G LTE network thanks to the joint venture the companies announced earlier this year.
Thousands of titles will be available to download, including licensed movies that could be ideal for entertaining kids in travel environments with limited streaming opportunities.