Comcast Blitz Drives Starz on Demand

Comcast Corp. and Starz Encore Group LLC announced last week the mass deployment of Starz On Demand and the recently launched Starz HD service to 30% of Comcast's subscriber base. It's the programmer's largest-ever single-day deployment of new services ever, according to Starz.

The launches stem from the new carriage accord Starz reached with Comcast in September. The deal was part of a legal settlement between the two companies, which had sparred over the validity of a carriage deal between Starz Encore and A&T Broadband, which Comcast acquired.

Starz On Demand launched last week before more than 6 million basic homes, covering the following markets: Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; central and northern New Jersey; Baltimore; Detroit; Mobile and Huntsville, Ala.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; Richmond, Va., and parts of New England.

The deal gives Starz a huge SVOD boost. Insight Communications Co. has deployed Starz On Demand across its systems serving more than 1 million subscribers. Starz On Demand also has launched on Charter Communications Inc.'s St. Louis system, the Adelphia systems in Cleveland and Bethel Park, N.Y., and with Altrio Communications.

Meanwhile, Starz HD is now available in markets where Comcast has rolled out HD service, about 75% of the company. Starz HD is available to premium Starz subscribers inside Comcast at no extra fee.

Further VOD and HD rollouts will occur throughout 2004 as those Comcast systems come on line, company officials said.

"Comcast is committed to bringing our customers a great value and enabling them to experience television on their terms," said Comcast senior vice president of marketing and new products Andy Addis.

Starz also announced that Cox Communications in Phoenix launched its HD service last week.

The deal, announced at the Western Show here last week, coincided with the fourth anniversary of Starz Encore chairman John Sie's first demonstration of SVOD at the Western Show in 1999.

Starz also announced the launch of another new network, Starz! Kids. It proffers G- and PG-rated content and will become the 13th channel in the Starz Super Pak.