Comcast, Film Distributor Team to Offer Movies on-Demand in Colorado (1 Viewer)

cablewithaview

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Mar. 29--Bryce Edmonds pays about $13 a month for bare-bones cable service. Yet, given his love of movies, he would consider upgrading his Comcast service to watch first-run films the same weekend they premiere in theaters.

"It would pique my interest, definitely," said the Boulder resident. If movies were released on cable the same day, "I wouldn't have to wait three or five months. And I would be able to have water-cooler talk instead of saying, 'No, don't tell me about it.' "

Giving people like Edmonds the option to view new movies without leaving the living room is the goal of Comcast's latest partnership to lure new customers and retain its 21 million customers -- 700,000 in Colorado.

Earlier this month, the nation's largest cable TV provider teamed up with the Independent Film Channel (IFC) to offer films on its video-on-demand service the same day they're released in theaters.

IFC plans to release two films each month in 2006. One of the company's latest films, "American Gun," was released on Comcast and Cablevision March 22, the same day it premiered in movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Subscribers to Comcast's digital tier of services now have access to "IFC in Theaters" under their OnDemand listings. The films are $5.99 each for 24 hours of unlimited viewing. Movies available on demand after they've been in theaters cost about $3.99.

More than 4 million video-on-demand programs are watched by Colorado subscribers each month.

Cable companies, competing against satellite and new telecommunications players, are trying to offer premium services to get people like Edmonds to upgrade from analog packages to pricier digital packages that start at about $44 in Denver.

Edmonds said that although he enjoys watching big-budget films on the big screen, paying $6 to view "more meditative" independent films at home is a reasonable price.

"Considering my girlfriend and I would spend $18 (to go to the theater), that seems pretty good," said the 37-year old writer. "It definitely has to be discounted. If it was getting close to the same price, I would just go to the theater and have the whole experience."

Movie makers, particularly independent ones, are aiming to get their films in front of as many people as possible.

"Unless you live in New York or Los Angeles, or go to film festivals, these films are never seen," said Matthew Frankel, spokesman for New York City-based IFC. "This really provides smaller films with a strong voice and national audience." IFC also produces and distributes first-run theatrical films, such as "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding."

IFC is part of Rainbow Media, a subsidiary of Cablevision.

"It should be lucrative," said Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst for In-Stat, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm. "A lot of people that would never think to go to the theater would think to buy it on a VOD service because there's so much buzz" surrounding a movie release.

Capitalizing on the buzz is Mark Cuban's theory, Kaufhold said. Cuban, co-founder of HDNet, a high-definition cable network that operates out of Denver, was the first to try the "day-and-date" release concept.

On Jan. 27, it premiered "Bubble", a Steven Soderbergh film in 32 theaters; ran the movie on HDNet Movies, a sister channel; and released the DVD a few days later. Comcast does not offer HDNet channels.

" 'Bubble' has made a profit. Most small movies like this don't make money," Cuban said in an e-mail. "People will watch more movies if they can catch the premiere on HDNet for free or buy the DVD for a premium."

http://www.redorbit.com/news/techno...nd_in_colorado/index.html?source=r_technology
 

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