Comcast seeks same-day movie releases as theaters

LAS VEGAS Tue May 8, 2007 3:18am EDT

Comcast Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Brian L. Roberts speaks at a press conference in New York, in this February 11, 2004 file photo. Comcast Corp., the biggest U.S. cable operator, has held talks with Hollywood studios to show movies on cable on the same day as they open in theaters, the company said on Monday as rivals also outlined plans for more premium content on television. REUTERS/Chip East

Comcast Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Brian L. Roberts speaks at a press conference in New York, in this February 11, 2004 file photo. Comcast Corp., the biggest U.S. cable operator, has held talks with Hollywood studios to show movies on cable on the same day as they open in theaters, the company said on Monday as rivals also outlined plans for more premium content on television.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Comcast Corp., the biggest U.S. cable operator, has held talks with Hollywood studios to show movies on cable on the same day as they open in theaters, the company said on Monday as rivals also outlined plans for more premium content on television.

Comcast Chief Operating Officer Stephen Burke told a trade show that subscribers could be charged $30 to $50 to watch an opening-day movie at home, narrowing the "window" between big screen and small screen debuts to nothing.

Theater owners have staunchly resisted any effort to cut the time between theatrical and DVD releases for fear that attendance would drop, while movie companies which get most of their profit from DVDs want a narrower window that would bring earnings forward and reduce the need for a second advertising campaign when a film is ready for home viewing.

Most 'windows' discussions have focused on closing the gap between when movie DVDs go to retailers rather than as pay-per-view cable offerings.

"Everybody's looking at new windows," said Burke. "We've talked to the studios about this and they're all interested." Burke said there were no imminent developments.

Comcast has been one of the biggest supporters of on-demand video for its 24.2 million subscribers. More than 95 percent of such programming it carries is free to it subscribers.

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Time Warner Cable Inc., the No. 2 operator, also said it is planning a new service called 'Catch-Up' which would allow subscribers to view recent first-run television shows.

Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt told The Cable Show audience that such a service would be similar to other initiatives his company has been testing, including 'Start Over,' which allows viewers to start over a program if they come in mid-way through the broadcast. He said they are popular with programmers since Time Warner disables the fast-forward button during advertisements.

"I think we've barely begun to scratch the surface on what we can do," said Britt.

A Time Warner Cable spokesman said the company is still in discussions with program owners for rights to launch 'Catch Up.'

Comcast's Burke also gave his company's strongest public support to Cablevision Systems Corp.'s planned network-based digital video recorder, or DVR, service.

Cablevision's plans were stalled by a court ruling which agreed with a claim by several studios and TV networks that Cablevision's plans to allow viewers to store programs remotely on its network would violate copyright agreements. The company said last month it is appealing the ruling.

"We will do the network DVR if the courts rule it permissible," said Burke.

Reuters

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