Comcast is formally beta-launching at CES on Tuesday the video portal it’s been developing for over a year called Fancast. We’ve mentioned the site repeatedly over the past few months because it was a launch partner of Hulu. Fancast also includes streaming video from CBS, with more partners supposedly coming soon — but all-in-all no different from the content you’ll increasingly find everywhere. The point of Fancast, however, is not so much about scoring content deals but being the ultimate video directory, pointing to TV shows and movies wherever they are available — be it on TV, on demand online or on cable, on DVD, available for online rental, or playing in a movie theater.
However, the site will not include content made for the web, said Sam Schwartz, executive vice president of Comcast Interactive Media, in an interview on Monday. “For the most part we’ve addressed Fancast at what we call long-form content,” he said. “Other people, we think, have covered the user-generated space pretty well.” He said Fancast would eventually include “user-generated components” such as reviews, lists, and mashups. Schwartz is more keen on a content discovery feature called “six degrees” that ties pieces of content together by shuffling common actors and themes (click on the thumbnail to see a screenshot).
The Fancast launch ties in with Comcast’s new “Project Infinity” initiative, which aims to bring every piece of content to the set-top box. Fancast is, for now, only available as a web site, but the idea is to bring the service’s recommendation engine onto other devices. Comcast already has a partner in TiVo and is actively negotiating with Time Warner and Cox, according to Schwartz.
A version of IMDB that links directly to where you can actually consume content? That’s a pretty good idea, but Comcast is totally missing the potential of amateur content and user participation. It’s kind of ridiculous that they don’t even encourage people to talk about their favorite TV shows — hello, page views! Schwartz did there is potential for natural tie-ins between Fancast and Ziddio, Comcast’s venture to bring user-generated content to the set-top box, but it doesn’t sound like anything to that effect is in the works just yet.