In the widest domestic application yet of TV Everywhere, Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) launched its still-beta Fancast Xfinity this morning across all of its markets. The service, a year in the making, allows cable video subscribers to watch video online that might not otherwise be available. It’s currently limited to so-called dual play subs, those who get both cable and broadband from Comcast, but Amy Banse, president of Comcast Interactive Media, said access will be expanded to all 24-plus million video subs regardless of ISP by mid-2010. Comcast doesn’t provide dual-play numbers but has under 15.7 million ISP subs and says the new service is available to most of them.
Networks included in the rollout are Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) nets HBO, Cinemax, TNT and TBS; Hallmark, OvationTV, Univision, Travel, Discovery, and BBC. At first glance, the lineup appeared to be slimmer than Comcast was able to offer during the trial version, when programmers were willing to take part without adjusting contracts or making new deals. I didn’t see Xfinity-only content from CBS (NYSE: CBS) and Rainbow Media when I checked the menu via a remote connection but a Comcast exec said on a press call that both were taking part. Comcast’s Matt Strauss said being paid for access isn’t “the main talking point” for those who haven’t followed from the trial; it’s more about user experience, security, the ad model.
A few fine points:
— Once a user has established Comcast “credentials” on a device, the programming can be reached through any ISP.
— For licensing reasons, access is limited to the U.S.
— Access to premium services through Fancast Xfinity requires a cable video sub for that network. Pay for HBO on cable, you get it through Xfinity.
— The Fancast site will look the same as it always has to non-Comcast subs. Comcast subs will see promotions about signing up and a different version of the site.
— Networks: HBO; Cinemax; Starz; A&E; History; CBS; BBCA; E!; Style; G4; Hallmark; MGM Impact; Discovery; TLC; Animal Planet; Univision; Music Choice; C-Span; Travel Channel; Ovation TV; AMC; WE; IFC; Sundance; TNT; TBS; Mi Cine.
More to come.