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Comcast Bullish on HD

By Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 08 Jan 2008

LAS VEGAS — The world's No. 1 cable operator Comcast Corp. later this year will introduce technology that allows subscribers to download high-definition movies in four minutes.

Comcast plans to bow 1,000 on-demand HD movies at the end of 2008, using over-cable-service-interface-specifications (DOCSIS 3.0), a new open standard high-speed Internet service created by an industry R&D consortium.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts included the announcement as part of the Philadelphia-based company's ambitious entertainment plans outlined during a keynote address on day two of International CES 2008 in Las Vegas.

He said DOCSIS 3.0 is capable of delivering digital video at speeds up to 160Mbps, compared to standard cable modems that deliver content at 6Mbps and DSL at 3Mbps.

“You're never going to want to get off the couch,” Roberts joked.

Indeed, Comcast generates 275 million on-demand views per month or 6 million since launching the service in 2003, according to the executive.

Roberts said the company will aggressively seek content providers (read: studios) eager to expand current distribution channels.

“We can work with whatever business model makes sense for them, whether it's free, ad-supported, subscription-base or pay-per-view,” he said.

Roberts did not comment about ongoing tests between cable operators (including Time Warner Cable) and movie studios regarding offering new releases on video-on-demand the same day as the DVD release.

Comcast also bowed Fancast.com, an interactive media portal that allows users to stream more than 3,000 hours of movie and network television content, including theatrical trailers, remotely program their digital video recorder, buy movie tickets through Fandango, rent a DVD from Netflix Inc., and search the Web for entertainment information.

An added feature, “Six Degrees,” allows users to research connections between actors, TV shows, movies and crew.

Other innovations include SmartZone, which lets you check your home voicemail (if Comcast is your phone provider) and e-mail online from a PC.

“This is like the feature you may have seen on the Apple iPhone,” Roberts said.

The cable company also aims to become the third largest telephone service provider in the United States and will soon offer caller ID and instant messaging directly on the TV screen, said Roberts.

Monday, Comcast said it was working with Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Intel, TiVo, Motorola, Cisco, Microsoft and others to incorporate its “tru2way” technology that allows greater interactivity between consumers and their content on a variety of CE devices.

It introduced a co-branded portable DVR (P-DVR) with Panasonic that will let Comcast customers record programming at home and take it with them in the car and on a plane. The P-DVR will be available beginning in early 2009.

In the interim, Comcast has begun offering TiVo Inc.'s time-shifting service in its set-top box to the New England market.

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