Comcast, Starz Offering More HD VOD

Comcast, America's largest cable company, last weekend began providing up to 100 hours of HD VOD programming to an undisclosed number of subs on its proprietary "On Demand" service.

Comcast and Starz Entertainment said a minimum of 20 HD movies will be available each month (although the companies did not say whether the entire lineup, or only a few titles, will change each month). The Sept. 15 debut of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was the first HD VOD content Comcast offered, and came about a week before the film's scheduled debut on the regular Starz movie service.

Comcast said its stepped-up HD initiative comes as "video-on-demand usage is soaring," with its HD-tier subs viewing more than three billion VOD programs since 2004, and now "clamoring for more HD programming on demand."

Comcast also released findings of a survey taken by 200 of its HD customers. Conducted by International Communications Research, the survey concludes that nearly 80 percent of respondents would prefer to watch HD programs on their own terms, not when shows air on a traditional schedule. Asked to identify the importance of "types" of HD content, the small sampling listed preferences, which appear to fly in the face of long-held conventional wisdom that "sports" is the key factor in propelling HD sales, although it's close:

Primetime broadcast network series (65 percent)
Premium channel movies and series (62 percent)
National sports (61 percent)
Local sports (58 percent)