The battle for supremacy in Web-based TV transmission is rapidly heating up: Comcast launched an on-demand Web-streaming video service today, just as its pseudo rival Hulu has signed a deal with Warner Music Group to bring more music vids to its service.
Comcast’s system is dubbed Fancast Xfinity TV, and it’s a new element in the Fancast service (as the name suggests). About 30 cable networks are already signed up to fire over 2,000 hours of video over the Net through Comcast’s Internet pipes to Comcast customers–and that’s the limit for the service for the time being. Eventually Xfinity will also be served to mobile devices, but the priority is to get the desktop version working first.
The show line-up will certainly help with that: The Sopranos, The Colbert Report, and Glee are bumping shoulders with movies like Wall-E. The ability to have all this on demand is a serious challenge to the waning DVD rental market–particularly when pushed by such a giant name as Comcast. The one fly in the ointment is that you’ll still get ads embedded in the shows–a full load, in some cases for some networks–which is going to make Comcast’s Internet TV sadly an echo of conventional TV.
Meanwhile Comcast rival Hulu is busy bumping up its own Net TV service into something of an on-demand competitor to MTV. It’s just signed a deal with Warner Music Group, adding in its extensive artist list to the programming Hulu’s already got from a similar deal with EMI. It’s a non-exclusive deal, and commentators expect WMG to also tout its acts music videos through other online channels, but for Hulu it’s quite a score. Along with its other deals, it means Hulu is now a serious player in Internet transmission of news TV, music TV, network show TV, and movies.
But Comcast owns large portions of NBC now, and NBC jointly controls Hulu–so the future of each service as an independent entity looks uncertain. It’s also not clear how either of these pieces of news reflects on Apple’s rumored entry into the TV streaming game: Both could be seen as either a positive indicator of a market ripe for the sort of disruptive influence Apple’s good at, or a sign that the TV industry is trying to close ranks to keep Apple out.