I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t like Comcast. Using their service, my Internet connectivity is slow, my cable is constantly on the fritz, and the interactive program guide is the definition of clunky. But Comcast — I say this through very gritted teeth, indeed — has some very promising plans for Fancast, its broadband video portal.
Because now Comcast wants to turn Fancast into the link from the Internet back into its cable programming service. If Comcast is even remotely successful with this web-to-TV convergence, then Fancast could very well represent a model for linking together new and old distribution methods.
Fancast this week added an online store through which users can rent and/or own more than 3,000 television shows and movies, and that store is supposedly the start of the broad new Fancast strategy.
Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting that Fancast is a better online store than others. I am a huge iTunes advocate and think it provides the greatest ease of use among online stores. Rather, the Comcast strategy with Fancast is worth watching because the operator appears to be taking steps to become more than just a dumb pipe. After all, cable’s role as the middle man in delivering content is under siege as consumers turn to the web to watch video programming. A broader Fancast is more of a retention play than a revenue driver. Customers who contemplate jettisoning cable programming in favor of becoming Internet-only video viewers might think twice if Comcast can strengthen the ties between its web and TV services.
Later this year, Comcast will begin testing the capability of synching Fancast to your Comcast DVR, which means you could program your home DVR from the Fancast site using your work computer. As a Comcast spokesperson noted, “The end user should feel like they can find and manage and get all their entertainment that they want no matter where it is.”
The next step will be to loop in video-on-demand functionality into Fancast. That could mean programming a VOD playlist directly from Fancast.com. So I could set up a “Daisy’s Shows” category that includes AMC’s Mad Men, HBO Entourage and fitness videos. Then when I sink down into my cushy couch at night all I’d have to do — theoretically — is click on my playlist to find my pre-programmed VOD picks.
As with anything, we’ll have to wait and see if Comcast can pull this off.