Comcast Cable TV is Coming to Laptops This Year

Comcast will soon make its cable TV content available to its subscribers on the Internet, says Karin Gilford, the Comcast Interactive executive in charge of the cable provider's Fancast video site.

The Comcast "on demand" online video service will allow Comcast subscribers to sign in with a username and password, then access any standard or premium cable content that their cable subscription entitles them to watch, Gilford says.

Gilford declined to get more specific on the timing of the launch or the breadth of the content that will be immediately available for online viewing. She says the new online video service will be free of charge to Comcast customers, but does not rule out the possibility that Comcast will charge extra for it in the future.

Premium movies and TV shows appear on thousands of different internet sites, in a thousand formats, and is paid for using many different pricing models. Because of this complexity and the demands of the video content owners, it's been offering a video site that offers everything has proved very challenging.

But Comcast, with its long-standing relationships with virtually all major video content producers (the networks, HBO, CNN, etc.), is in a unique position to provide a single omnibus video site that has a broad range of content and a consistent way of viewing it all. Those relationships might allow Fancast to feature a lot of content that other online video sites don't have.

Gilford says its affiliates have always had deep security concerns about distributing premium (for-pay) content online. But, like many in the music industry, video content producer/owners have warmed to the idea.

So if you're like me and you already subscribe to Comcast cable anyway, Fancast becomes my online video destination of choice--the one most likely to have something I want to watch. This will be especially true if Comcast is able to host the thousands of titles from last year or from 40 years ago that currently reside in the vaults of its content owner affiliates (like Turner Classics, for example).

All that content available online and searchable using a real keyboard (not a remote) could be a very powerful thing indeed. Afterall, as I written (too) many times: the TV watcher's challenge is "finding something to watch when you don't know what you want to watch." Give me a lot of video and a decent search engine to search it with, and that problem is likely solved.

And even if the search fails to find the title in streamable form, Fancast will tell you when the title will be on scheduled TV next. If you know you'll have trouble remembering to watch, Fancast might present you with a button that says "send to DVR", allowing you to record the program when it airs.

Fancast has other things going for it, too. The 24 million people who currently subscribe to Comcast provide a ready target market for the new online Comcast service; many of those will like the idea of being able to watch their cable shows on their laptop (or at work uh oh).

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