June 25, 2005 in Business

Comcast will offer VOD in August

By The Spokesman-Review

At a glance


Comcast’s Video on Demand service will be available only to the company’s digital cable subscribers. Most of the VOD programming is free, although pay-per-view movies will cost $3.99 each.

Spokane digital cable subscribers will have their first sampling of video on demand sometime in August, Comcast Corp. officials said Friday.

Video on demand (VOD) allows cable subscribers access to large libraries of movies, sports and other entertainment that can be played at any time during the day.

Comcast officials have offered VOD in the Seattle area for about a year. Spokane’s system will be a newer, improved version of the technology, said Ken Watts, general manager of Spokane’s Comcast office.

When it starts, the Spokane Comcast VOD library will have between 1,500 and 2,000 hours of programs, said Watts. The volume will significantly increase over time, he said.

The VOD option is available for those with Comcast’s digital cable service. There is no extra charge for the VOD service, said Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp.

Kipp said about 85 percent of the VOD content is free and includes programs from the cable provider’s popular channels, including sports, kids’ programs and home and garden shows.

The programs that are not free are basically pay-per-view movies that have recently been made available by the studios, said Kipp.

A subscriber would pay $3.99 per movie and can watch it as many times as desired within 24 hours.

Comcast Senior Vice President Leonard Rozek said VOD is a technological innovation that the company hopes will keep Comcast subscribers from opting for paid satellite programming.

“It’s adding value so our customers stay with us,” said Rozek, who is based in Bothell, Wash., and who visited Spokane on Friday to demonstrate the service.

He said other markets that have added VOD have seen slight increases in number of subscribers. Comcast has about 98,000 Comcast TV subscribers in Spokane County and an undisclosed number of high-speed Internet subscribers. By contrast, Comcast has about 1.1 million subscribers in the Seattle area, said Rozek.

Video on demand also cuts down on digital subscriber “churn,” said Rozek. Churn describes the percent of cable viewers who sign up for digital service, but then switch to a cheaper form of cable programming without digital service.

About 40 percent of Spokane’s Comcast TV subscribers – or roughly 39,000 people – use the company’s digital-TV service, which starts at $72 a month and goes up to about $100.

Watts said the new VOD service will be tested in July and introduced in August.

In May this year, Seattle Comcast TV subscribers made 7 million video-on-demand selections, Rozek said. That equals roughly 18 to 20 selections per digital subscriber per month, he said.

The most popular area of VOD choice, he added, was premium programming, including content from HBO and other movie channels.

VOD now allows people to watch past seasons of the popular HBO series “The Sopranos,” Rozek said. Those episodes would cost nothing to watch, but are only available to Comcast digital subscribers who already pay for the HBO channel, he said.

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