This week brought yet another twist in the intriguing relationships between pay-TV operators and broadcast TV networks, as Comcast announced deals with both FOX and ABC to add recent episodes of over 20 hit shows from the networks to its Xfinity TV video-on-demand line-up. The move is a solid step forward for Comcast, giving it access to all 4 major broadcast networks' programs, a first. This is also content that isn't available on Netflix, providing another good differentiator.
The downside though is that only the most recent 4 episodes will be available, which is a sub-optimal experience for viewers seeking to catch-up on larger batches of missed episodes. As a result this feels a little more like a DVR-replacement for most-recent episodes. Another open question is advertising with Comcast saying that fast-forward will be disabled. Forcing viewers to watch a full load of ads - especially on the Xfinity iPad app - is a step back relative to using a DVR's ad-skipping feature, or the expectations of lighter online video ad loads that are now common. As such, it remains to be seen how popular these new VOD programs will become.
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