Comcast was met with a near programmer revolt when it first broached the concept of free video on demand. Nobody from the programming side could see the wisdom of giving away content that could bring in additional revenue. As a result, Comcast’s first foray into the free VOD space consisted mainly of dated library product. That antagonism is starting to change. Slowly, programmers are beginning to use Comcast’s VOD system as a promotional tool for programs on their linear services. That translates to newer and sometimes exclusive content for Comcast’s VOD service. "We’ve seen a real change in the past three months," says Page Thompson, VP, national marketing, for Comcast. "They are starting to look at this platform as something they need to get on." HBO got the ball rolling this spring when it previewed Entourage on HBO On Demand before its linear debut. But Thompson says the real change is coming from some of the non-premium networks, which are jumping aboard, too. They include TBS (with The Real Gilligan’s Island), MTV (with The Real World) and Noggin (with its planned TV premiere of Franklin’s Magic Christmas). The darling of Comcast’s VOD world this fall has been the highlight package provided by NFL Network, which accounts for the highest VOD viewing figures in the cities that have professional football teams (Eagles highlights are the highest rated in Philadelphia, Broncos highlights in Denver, etc.). During its first month on offer in September, Comcast logged more than 2.9 million VOD orders for NFL Replay, which works out to an average of 5.2 titles per viewer per week. In November, Comcast’s VOD platform rolled out NBA highlights the day after games were played. And while the MSO hasn’t signed a deal with baseball yet, it’s a safe bet to assume those highlights will be available in the spring. "This differentiates us from satellite," Thompson says. "Our general strategy is to provide people with the best value for their digital subscription." To complement its VOD sports package, Comcast offers some college football highlights and certain college football coaches’ shows. Its VOD service also is broadening into women’s programming, with programs from TLC and up to 20 hours of fitness programming. Despite the fact that the majority of its product is free, VOD is becoming a healthy revenue stream for Comcast. While only 4% of its VOD usage is for pay movies, the pay movie buy rate has increased by 60% since free VOD was first launched. That suggests that free VOD users are getting comfortable with the system and are beginning to spend real money on it.
Comcast VOD Stats