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Bernstein Praises Comcast Digital Plan

Bernstein Investment Research and Management came away from a Veteran's Day conversation with executives of Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, impressed by plans for so-called digital simultrans.

The strategy is to duplicate an analog cable lineup in digital.

The move could be a sort of de facto multicast must-carry, though Comcast would also arguably have the flexibility to slice and dice the digital channels into different packages or provide a la carte offerings.

Currently, most of Comcast's programming contracts for the analog versions require that they be part of a basic package, Bernstein points out.

Comcast told Bernstein that it has cleared the spectrum on all its systems, made new channel assignments "in every market," and is ready for rapid deployment of the digital version of its analog lineups over the next six months.

The benefits Bernstein sees:

  • No more complaints about picture quality from HDTV owners watching analog signals blown up on their big screens.
  • Digital boxes could be offered that did not also have to receive analog signals.
  • Digital Simulcast tier takers would be able to employ Comcast's video-on-demand service.

Analysts are high on VOD as one of the new services that will help cable start to capitalize on those hefty capital outlays for upgrades over the past few years.