CES2008: Comcast to Expand HD On-Demand Menu

Comcast, America’s largest cable company, which is currently locked in a fierce battle with satellite competitors over who has the longest HD menu, outlined its near-term plans for ramping up more HD content, at a press briefing in Las Vegas.

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts detailed his firm’s plans to provide HD-tier subscribers with no less than 1,000 choices of HD fare by the end of 2008 (movies, TV shows and other on-demand content)—with more than 3,000 HD titles to be made available sometime in 2009. The on-demand HD menu and other content are part of Comcast’s greater vision for VOD and related services, dubbed by the cable firm as Project Infinity.

While DirecTV and Dish DBS satellite services are now offering dozens of HD channels, with promises of scores more in coming months, cable has been lagging behind, especially the nation’s cable giants—Comcast, Cox Cable, and Time Warner. Comcast hopes its Project Infinity, targeting on-demand services that can grow as quickly as license holders in Hollywood will allow, will start to right the HD ship.

“Project Infinity plans to give consumers the best and most content they will find On Demand anywhere—more HD, more sports, more movies, kids’ programs and network TV,” said Roberts. This latest push for the hearts and minds of HD consumers is designed as an extension of Comcast’s overall TV and Internet strategy. (Its Web site is a major portal that already houses lot of video for its broadband customers). On its cable side, Comcast said its subs are currently selecting content on its On Demand menu about a hundred times per second (or about 275 million views monthly).

Starting in early 2009, Roberts said, Comcast hopes to offer about 6,000 movies a month—with more than half of them (3,000) in HD. By contrast, the mail-in movie service Netflix has about 90,000 non-HD titles available, and most Blockbuster mortar stores house between 60,000 and 80,000 standard DVD titles.