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Comcast to Launch 'Start Over'-Style Digital Cable Service

Comcast is working up its own version of Time Warner Cable’s Start Over, which lets viewers play back certain TV programs if they’ve missed the beginning of a show without the need for a digital video recorder.

 “Start Over is a great service,” said Comcast senior vice president of strategic planning Mark Coblitz, speaking at an event this week in New York hosted by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. “We’re going to do it, too, because we’ve seen how popular it is.”

 Asked when Comcast will offer the replay service, Coblitz said “probably next year.”

 Comcast spokesman Chris Ellis said the operator hasn’t made any announcements about when or where the service will be launched, or what the service may be called. He also declined to say whether Comcast’s version of Start Over will be free, but noted that 95% of its video-on-demand content is available for no additional charge.

Start Over, as offered by Time Warner, is a VOD service that provides replays of as many as 22,000 cable and broadcast TV shows per month, available only during the show’s broadcast window. Time Warner has agreements with more than 100 networks for the service.

Time Warner’s Start Over lets viewers launch replays for only a limited time after they’ve aired: up to two and half times the original program’s length. Start Over does not permit viewers to use the fast-forward functioni – ensuring that commercials can’t be skipped, as with conventional DVRs. The operator provides the service to digital-cable subscribers in those markets for no additional charge.

Time Warner Cable’s Start Over is currently deployed in six divisions: Rochester, N.Y.; Albany, N.Y.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; San Antonio; and Hawaii.

 Meanwhile, Bright House Networks, a close partner of Time Warner Cable, expects to deploy Start Over in Tampa Bay, Fla., division on Oct. 24. Similarly, Cox Communications is making select ABC and NBC shows

available via VOD with fast-forward disabled to digital-cable customers in Orange County and Palos Verdes, Calif., systems.

Comcast’s Coblitz discussed Start Over as an example of a service that would hypothetically be unavailable to users of devices using DCR+ (“digital cable ready plus”), a plan proposed by the Consumer Electronics Association to standardize access to interactive cable services. The NCTA opposes DCR+, claiming it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, and recommends the Federal Communications Commission adopt the CableLabs-developed OpenCable Platform middleware instead.