Comcast to stream HBO and Cinemax content online

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New York (NY) – Comcast said that it will offer its customers free access to HBO and Cinemax content via the Internet through On Demand trial. Of course, if you aren’t a HBO or Cinemax subscriber in the first place, you don’t get free access to those shows, which represent a combined 750 hours of programming initially. The added value, as Comcast claims, may be limited, especially if you get too excited over this new offering and run into your Internet bandwidth barrier.

If you enjoy watching videos online from your PC, perhaps on your office desk, then these are, without any doubt, interesting times. There have been some pricey, fee-based on-demand video services for several years, but the choices of content and services is increasing and prices are dropping. Netflix has somewhat pioneered on-demand video as an added value and now we are seeing traditional content providers following this path. Comcast is the latest company to aggressively explore the interest of its customers in “added value on-demand video”.

The company said that it will offer “award-winning television and movie content from HBO and Cinemax online for the first time as an added value to Comcast’s HBO and Cinemax customers nationwide.” So, if you are paying for these services already, then you will soon be able to access certain content as part of Comcast’s On Demand Online trial, accessible via Comcast.net and Fancast.com. According to Comcast, “On Demand Online is a new service that will significantly expand the number of top-rated TV choices available online to Comcast cable customers free of charge.”

The new project already includes content from TNT, TBS and Starz. At launch, the HBO and Cinemax broadband services on Comcast’s On Demand Online will include current and classic HBO series like True Blood, Hung, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire, Sex and the City, The Sopranos and Real Time with Bill Maher Available movies will include Transformers, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Atonement, Brokeback Mountain, Michael Clayton, Shrek the Third, Kung Fu Panda, Get Smart, The Bourne Ultimatum and The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

Comcast promises that HBO and Cinemax programming will be updated frequently, with subscribers able to choose from a number of programs in HD including HBO Films, series, documentaries, sports, specials and comedy as well as theatrical films. Customers will be able to view certain new programs online immediately after they air on television and “will have access to an extensive library of past programming.”

In total, Comcast said that it is offering a combined 750 hours of content from HBO and Cinemax initially.

The obvious question is how this new service will impact Comcast’s stance on bandwidth limitations. For certain, those customers who will be taking advantage of this service would be part of a crowd that Comcast in the past described as users with excessive bandwidth use. Households with more than one PC may easily run into Comcast’s bandwidth limits of 250 GB on the high end and we wonder whether Comcast will drop its bandwidth limit for its cable Internet service. Or will Comcast use the On Demand service as leverage to sell customers more bandwidth for more money? So far, the company has not said which way it will go.

And then, of course, there is the question how Comcast’s rivals will react. Will AT&T drop its bandwidth limitations to allow its customers free and unlimited bandwidth to Comcast’s On Demand service? We doubt it. Don’t get too excited about what seems to be free access to HBO and Cinemax just yet.