After weeks of speculation over when Comcast would officially launch its TV Everywhere implementation, the cable provider finally took the wraps off the service. Starting today, Fancast Xfinity TV will be available to Comcast customers who subscribe to its pay TV and broadband Internet services.
The Fancast Xfinity TV service will have full-length programming from nearly 30 content providers, including major cable channels like HBO, Starz and Cinemax. Altogether, the new service launched with 12,000 video assets, compared with about 17,000 that are available through Comcast’s VOD service.
To access the service, users will have to subscribe to both Comcast’s cable television and broadband Internet service, somewhat limiting the number of subscribers who can access Xfinity. The cable company wouldn’t say how many of its consumers use both services, but the number is less than the company’s official count of 15.7 million broadband subscribers. In time, Comcast plans to extend the service to all 24 million of its cable TV customers.
Users will need to download and install a client that enables them to authenticate with Comcast from their PCs. The service uses Move Networks’ adaptive bit-rate technology to adapt to changing network conditions and deliver the best quality stream based on available bandwidth.
Not all content will be available to all users. For instance, subscribers who don’t pay for HBO as part of their cable package won’t be able to watch The Sopranos on the service. Instead, users will be met with a prompt asking if they’d like to subscribe to watch a particular piece of content.
Matt Strauss, Comcast’s senior vice president of New Media, said that the particular show that would be available to users would depend on the windowing plans of individual content providers. While some cable networks are making their content available the day after a show airs, others are only submitting older library content to the service for now. Programmers are also divided on how they approach advertising on the site. While some are experimenting with inserting a full ad load into the content, others are being more cautious with the amount of ads being served.
While increasing the amount of content that viewers can access online, the service is also designed to provide a 360-degree connection to a Comcast subscriber’s TV viewing, providing the available TV and video-on-demand listings in the customer’s browser. Later versions of the service will enable viewers to control their DVR, and create TV and VOD watch lists.