Streaming Cable Content: For Comcast Subscribers Only

Yesterday’s news that Hulu soon plans to start charging for its service actually came fresh on the heels of Comcast’s announcement that it’s about to officially launch online streaming video for subscribers to both their cable TV and Internet services.

Viewers can access the cable shows and movies through Comcast-owned Comcast.net and Fancast.com and eventually on the Web site of cable networks such as AMC, which is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp. After users log in, the cable system will perform such checks as whether a Comcast cable modem is being used.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts showed off the new service at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday, likening it to “video on demand on steroids.”

Comcast has no plans to offer an online-only subscription for cable channels, a move that could cannibalize its own cable TV offerings. However, it will expand ways in which viewers can rent and buy shows and movies through an integrated store on Fancast.com.

It’s been mentioned that the shows included in this program will include HBO content—but it’s unclear whether this will be available only to cable subscribers who already pay for HBO.

Comcast to debut cable shows online by year’s end
[AP]

(Photo: Scurzuzu)

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  1. Eldritch says:

    …I can see a few problems with this… so, you couldn’t watch AMC programs online if you don’t have Comcast? That isn’t fair at all. What if you live somewhere that doesn’t HAVE Comcast?

    • karmaghost says:

      @Eldritch: Comcast’s response: time to move.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @Eldritch: Right now, you can’t watch AMC programs online at all. After this, Comcast subscribers will be able to do so.

      Life isn’t fair.

    • PsiCop says:

      @Eldritch: My guess is that this is because Comcast will be running the servers and hosting the (considerable) infrastructure that allow people to do this. Not the AMC network itself. If Comcast wants to offer this service only to its own subscribers, that’s their prerogative.

    • lmarconi says:

      @Eldritch: At least Comcast is progressing. Cablevision is so bad it’s not worth having cable. I wish I had Comcast just so I didn’t have to deal with this you pay for all 75 channels but you can only get half unless you rent a box from us for each TV for $7 a month per box BS. Sometimes I wonder if the cable companies will hit a point where they’re charging so many fees and high prices and enough people say screw you and they actually start losing money for once.

    • vladthepaler says:

      @Eldritch:

      If you live somewhere that doesn’t have Comcast, thank your lucky stars.

  2. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Interesting. If they offer more than what is OnDemand then I might be interested. Allthough I would prefer to watch it on my tv anyway.

  3. oloranya says:

    After users log in, the cable system will perform such checks as whether a Comcast cable modem is being used

    So what if you bought your own modem but still have comcast service?

    • wickedpixel says:

      @Nicole: it’s probably less the modem itself and more that the MAC address is authorized for comcast service.

      • Difdi says:

        @wickedpixel: Then again, I could see Comcast “accidentally” restricting it to just Comcast cable modems. They’d be apologetic, insist they weren’t engaging in anti-competitive business practices, and promise a fix Real Soon Nowâ„¢.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @Nicole: Or if it’s a Comcast IP.

      Time to set up a VPN at la casa de mis padres.

    • dragonpup says:

      @Nicole: Customer owned modems are added to the inventory alongside of Comcast owned modems, and use the same IP blocks. I think people are reading far too much into this.

      • Suulia says:

        @dragonpup:
        Correct. There is no functional difference between a rented modem and a purchased modem. Purchased or rented, for the same service, they are handled identically.

        • Révolution says:

          @Suulia: Until someone like me shows up, who is using their own Cisco router instead of the Verizon one. I see people using 3rd party routers on comcast having problems.

          • brodie7838 says:

            @Révolution: Never heard of Comcast handing out routers, much less Verizon routers. Come to think of it, never heard of Verizon making standalone routers either.
            Regardless, it doesnt matter, they are looking at the cable modem, NOT the router.

          • Suulia says:

            @Révolution: I see them too (since I work for Comcast tech support :-), and anything on the other side of a modem isn’t an ISP issue. Many customers blame their ISP for their “bad internet” when their router is malfunctioning. 9/10 times I check their modem and it’s purring like a kitten.

            Once we get them to go cable direct (ethernet from the modem to one computer) it works fine, and we have to refer them to their router manufacturer.

  4. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i think i’ll just go all luddite and start playing my atari all day and pretend tv doesn’t exist. there are way too many little backstabbing wars over how to get viewers to pay for content.
    does anyone else remember when all the channels were free channels for consumers, paid for by advertising ? [much like a large part of the internet]

  5. enomosiki says:

    I have no idea why I even subscribe to cable TV anymore. Out of perhaps 900+ channels that Time Warner offers me, I only see, what, half a dozen, and even that number if pushing it.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      @enomosiki: Which has prompted a lot of people to go the internet-TV route. Which is why the cable companies are now starting to offer services like this. Circle of life, my friend.

    • Dustbunny says:

      @enomosiki: ITA. Weren’t there rumors that Comcast would start offering a la carte cable this past summer? Or at least offer a package that excludes sports programming? I could swear I read that somewhere.

  6. ep5760 says:

    So for the most part I see nothing new here…isn’t this what Fancast already does? The only exception being going to other sites detecting a Comcast modem. On the flipside this sounds right along the lines of what Net Neutrality were trying to prevent.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @ep5760: Wait. How is net neutrality going to prevent Comcast from offering streaming services to their customers?

      It’s a value-added service where online streaming is included with your cable subscription. They’re not degrading or preventing you from using other services.

      • ep5760 says:

        @Michael Belisle: If the companies such as AMC were to only offer this to Comcast modems and not AT&T or Time Warner or whoever customers. That’s what net neutrality is looking to block.

        • Michael Belisle says:

          @ep5760: I still don’t agree. You’re saying that solely because the content is transmitted over IP or the Internet, net neutrality principles suggest that anything Comcast secures rights to distribute must also be given free to everyone in the world? That doesn’t make sense. Like, you’re telling me that if DirecTV wants to pay the NFL $4 billion for exclusive Sunday Ticket rights (including streaming of games over the Internet), the FCC should step in and say “No, DirecTV you can’t purchase content and distribute it only to your customers. NFL content is a public good that belongs to the world.”

          The story here is really “Comcast to offer new online streaming service to its customers.” There’s no reason why Comcast should have to offer the service for free to people who are not their customers.

          What Net Neutrality really says Comcast can’t do is to favor transmission of their On Demand Online service over the transmission of a competitor’s service. AMC, meanwhile, can do whatever they want with their content. They’re a content provider, and thus restrictions placed on internet service providers are irrelevant. There’s nothing in net neutrality that says AMC must treat all internet service providers equally.

        • sinrtb says:

          @ep5760: I think you misconstrue or misunderstand what Net Neutrality is. Its not to prevent Comcast customers from getting more from Comcast. or even to prevent non-Comcast customers to get less from Comcast. What it is supposed to do is prevent anyone from getting less from anyone else, through their pipes. IE if Comcast slowed down Hulus traffic and then offered to upgrade Hulus traffic if you bought a special Hulu package, or if they went to Hulu and said sorry bub all traffic coming from your site will have to be taxed or we will not let it though nearly as fast as our own Fancast traffic.

          Preventing companies having paid content has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. What comcast is suggesting is nothing different from Netflix, Pandora or Itunes. You pay either a for the show or for the stream and you get it. Comcast is just going to offer it to comcast customers as a bonus, Just like Netflix offers streaming movies as a bonus to the 2+ rentals a month. Many of us are just used to only using one or the other we don’t think about the other.

  7. Goatweed says:

    will the online content count towards monthly caps if/when they are in place? I’m betting they will.

    • karmaghost says:

      @Goatweed: “if/when?” Comcast has a monthly cap already! Were you aware?

      And my guess? For a while, yes, this will count towards your monthly cap. That is, until they move towards per-byte monthly billing, and then perhaps they may make exceptions for you using their feeds. However, there will be shitloads of commercials in those streams to make up for it.

  8. Michael Belisle says:

    How is this different than, say, DirecTV offering NBA online streaming to people who subscribe to DirecTV’s NBA League Pass? Nothing’s stopping anyone from going to nba.com/leaguepass and ordering a streaming subscription. If I subscribe to DirecTV’s service, I get streaming included.

  9. ChemicallyInert says:

    I think this is important, because when Comcast no longer has to follow net neutrality rules they’ll need to find a way to make sure they’re customers come to them for their video fix.

    (Let’s face it, there’s no mainstream uproar over McCain’s bill, it will pass not with a bang, but a whimper.)

    • Naame says:

      @ChemicallyInert: I don’t think McCain’s bill is going to pass. You don’t need “mainstream uproar” for it to fail. There is plenty of uproar in favor of net neutrality and when it comes time for the votes my guess is that enough Dems will pay attention to that fact and kill the bill.

  10. Joeb5 says:

    a Comcast cable modem that you have to rent a $5/m what a joke.

  11. Icayrus says:

    I’m a Comcast customer and was in a beta for this service for awhile. Then, I found out that you can only watch shows, without breaking the TOS, when you are connected to the Comcast modem, as stated in the article. Personally, I don’t see the point of this and would value the service a lot more if I could log-in with my Comcast ID from wherever I am (on vacation, business, etc.) and watch something instead of being reliant on the local television options. I’m not going to sit at my computer in my house and watch TV when I have a 50in TV to watch TV on.

    • FLConsumer says:

      @Icayrus: Exactly. Away from home is where I normally watch internet TV (and my beloved Slingbox hooked up to DirecTV). Sad. and short-sided. Hulu et al were looking to be a good model for future cable company products if they weren’t so stuck in the past.

  12. Al Swearengen says:

    Um, if you have to be working through a Comcast modem, you are probably at home, in which case it would just be easier to watch shows through OnDemand than through a computer hooked up to your TV. Just cut out all the B.S. and make OnDemand better. And stop charging a buck for each NBC show.

    I’m thinking this is just a setup to eventually make more money by putting caps on downloads and charging for overages and then only allowing people to view shows through streaming instead of OnDemand. This pushes the costs onto the users.

    • PunditGuy says:

      @Al Swearengen: I have no cable box, so OnDemand isn’t an option.

      • Al Swearengen says:

        @PunditGuy:

        I don’t think you’d be able to stream then. It says you need both Comcast TV and internet to be able to stream, and they give you the cable box if you have cable.

        • PunditGuy says:

          @Al Swearengen: I’ve got analog cable through Comcast. Remember that service? It’s channels 2-79. I’ve also got their Internet service. If they’re only doing a check to see if I’m on a Comcast IP address, then I’m about to get streaming access to a bunch of channels that I don’t get.

          My guess is that they’ll somehow tie your subscription information to a login at their streaming site.

      • FLConsumer says:

        @PunditGuy: Oh, you will in another year or two. Comcast will be ditching analog cable as we know it. They (and others) have been slowly whittling away at the # of channels available on analog. Rumour on the street is many cable systems will be 100% digital (requiring a box) by the end of 2010.

    • Colonel Jack O'Neill says:

      @Al Swearengen:
      Have you ever tried to watch on-demand. My on-demand is so damn slow, take like 5 secs. for it to respond to any input. And then, it’s hard to find anything on there, they have to fix it to make it more easier to find stuff, and then they have to fix it to make it faster.

    • Suulia says:

      @Al Swearengen:
      You’re barking up the wrong tree. NBC forces cable providers to charge for their shows, and then send NBC the money. Complain to NBC to make their shows available for free.

    • floraposte says:

      @Al Swearengen: My OnDemand offers virtually no actual episodes of the shows I watch. Even the episodes that claim they’re available OnDemand when you’re watching them just mean they have material related to that show, not that particular episode.

      Waste of cable here.

      • Al Swearengen says:

        @floraposte:

        That’s why I said make OnDemand BETTER. If they put all the shows into OnDemand that they were going to put into streaming, and make OnDemand navigation better, it would make more sense than doing streaming, IMHO.

    • sinrtb says:

      @Al Swearengen: LOL The ondemaand system sux for watching anyting shorter than 30 mins. You have 1-2 minute loading time followed by the 1-3 minute lead in commercial to watch a 1-2 minute clip its stupid. And anything worth watching OnDemand is on Hulu and other sites already.

    • tbax929 says:

      @Al Swearengen:
      Is that a Comcast thing or an NBC thing? None of my other shows cost $.99.

  13. tonsilpool says:

    …since I have already been contacted by the “terms of service” folks at Comcast for my “excessive” use, I now go down to my local library.

    I get about 3.5 gigs/per/hour at home but, when I use the wireless at the public library, I get 5-6 gigs/per/hour.

    I just setup my cues in “grabit” while at home and then do the actual download at the library.
    Simple solution…I get all the downloads I want and the “great” folks at Comcast think I’m a “light user.”

  14. H3ion says:

    This isn’t a Net neutrality issue. It’s a simple matter of content providers charging for content. Comcast’s model is sort of the reverse of Gillette. The razor model was to give away the razor and then charge for the blades. Comcast is giving away the blades but you have to buy the razor.

    Newsday announced earlier this week that they would begin charging for access through the Net. I expect other content providers will follow suit to see how much they can charge before the viewers decide it’s not worth the cost. The advertising model doesn’t work for many of these content providers because they don’t get enough hits to make it worthwhile.

    BTW, Verizon’s FIOS already does something similar with its On Demand service. You can get all the Starz, HBO and other movies on demand, but only if you already subscribe to the premium service. Nothing unusual. Just decide what you want to pay for and if you don’t want to pay the extra cost, watch the networks.

  15. GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

    I don’t get the point at all. If I already subscribe to cable tv services why would I watch any of it on my pc? Now it would make perfect sense if I could subscribe to their IPTV services as a new customer at a dramatic discount since I would be watching via my pc. I should get a huge price break for watching programming on that.

  16. rrapynot says:

    I have comcast basic cable which does not need a cable box. No cable box means no on-demand. This would bring on-demand to those without a cable box.

  17. Scazza says:

    This isn’t as big of a deal as made out. ALOT of carriers are soon going to be offering this. Already BELL Canada has this coming, SKY and a few other places, so your company might too.

  18. padarjohn says:

    @H3ion: The Net Neutrality part is subtle. I would assume that Comcast-provided video won’t count against the download caps, while competitor’s services would. Also, Comcast is lobbying to be able to limit streaming downloads of large amounts of data. I assume they won’t limit their own content. These effectively interfere with competing services. It’s no small conflict of interest.
    If they want to be both a cable-TV provider and an ISP they should run them as separate business entities and the video business should have to play by the same rules as any other Internet-based video content provider.

  19. balthisar says:

    Oh, big f’ing deal if they check to see if I’m on their network. I’m paying my cable bill back home, and want to see my programs while I’m here out of the country. Loser of an idea.

  20. BillyDee_CT says:

    It sounds like nothing more than another money grab from Comcast. I was so happy when I went with DirecTV and I have never looked back at the Com-Crapstik service I got when I had my local cable service.

    If you have cable, satellite or an antenna chances are you are going to watch the vast majority of TV content that way. Personally I watch a great deal of “low budget” and free video/TV content online, When I was on vacation I watched online Tv for three months without a single bit of over-the-air content. If the cable companies want to cut their own throats by ripping off their customers that’s their business.