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Comcast Launches Digital Movie Service, May Support UltraViolet

20 Nov, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

Comcast Nov. 19 launched its digital movie sellthrough service, promising titles for digital purchase weeks before they’re available on disc. The launch makes Comcast the first cable operator to sell movies — instead of just renting them — via its set-tops.

In what would be another first among cable or satellite companies, purchases via the nascent service — which is part of Comcast’s Xfinity on Demand platform — may be enabled with UltraViolet, the buy once, play anywhere cloud-based digital content service.

The store page for some Comcast subscribers included the option to link their Xfinity account with their UltraViolet account. Comcast is a member of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the industry consortium behind UltraViolet.

Comcast had no comment on the launch of the service or potential ties to UltraViolet. DECE also had no comment.

Offering Comcast subscribers the ability to access their purchased titles via UltraViolet could prove a boon for the major studios, which enjoyed a 50% growth in electronic sellthrough revenue in the third quarter and are looking for more to help supplant declining disc revenue.

Foreshadowing the Xfinity on Demand sellthrough launch, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer Nov. 8 told industry analysts that a multichannel video program distributor would soon offer new-release movies before they’re available on disc.

“When that happens, it’s really going to open up amazing opportunities for the future of electronic sellthrough,” Feltheimer said. “And I think you’re going to see it in a very short period of time.”

Xfinity on Demand offers mostly Universal Studios films, including Fast & Furious 6, Despicable Me 2 and Les Misérables. Comcast owns Universal. Many Lionsgate titles are also available. Just a smattering of TV series were available at launch, including “Grimm,” “Mad Men” and “Hannibal.”

New-release movies were found for $19.99 in high-def, $16.99 for standard-definition, while some catalog titles could be found for $15.99 for HD, $10.99 for SD. Other catalog titles are priced at $14.99 and $9.99, respectively. Individual TV episodes can be purchased for $2.99 for high-def, $1.99 for standard-definition.

In conjunction with the Xfinity on Demand sellthrough launch, Comcast has launched apps for both Apple and Android devices, with the caveat that “Only Xfinity customers in select trial markets are able to utilize this app.”

Comcast also promised its customers that any purchases they make via Xfinity on Demand would still be accessible, should they cancel their service.

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