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Comcast Offers Early Look at

Comcast has quietly launched a beta version of its entertainment portal, providing some clues about what the operator plans to do with the full-blown site.

Fancast’s mission, according to its frequently asked questions section, is to be “the one place where you can find what to watch, where to watch, when to watch it -- plus all the video, photos and facts you crave.”

Now open to the general Internet public, the Fancast beta provides a searchable database of information on TV shows, movies, actors and directors; a collection of trailers and video clips; and TV-grid listings provided by Tribune Media Services.

There’s a “My Fancast” section to let users save and rate favorite shows and movies. The site also links to Fandango, the movie-ticketing site Comcast acquired in April, to let users buy tickets for films currently playing in theaters. The plan is to eventually integrate the Fandango features directly into Fancast.

In other words, the site is a lot like’s popular Internet Movie Database, which purports to be the biggest entertainment-search site online with 50 million monthly visitors.

IMDB may be a tough act to follow. But Fancast is shooting for a higher degree of sophistication. First, it has personalization features -- à la Netflix or TiVo -- that suggest shows or movies you may be interested in. Users teach the site their preferences using a nine-point rating scale, ranging from “dreadful” to “amazing.”

Fancast also has a fun navigation feature called “Six Degrees.” Like the well-known “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” parlor game, the feature lists related content, people or genres for whatever you want to drill down on.

Clicking on Curb Your Enthusiasm pulls up show star and creator Larry David, The Bernie Mac Show (another sitcom with an actor playing himself), HBO’s Entourage, and--because they’re also tagged as being about “foibles of marriage”--Mad About You and the movie American Splendor.

Eventually, is supposed to provide full-length television shows from Comcast’s own networks as well as NBC, Fox, and other programmers through a content-distribution deal the operator negotiated with the still-unnamed Internet joint venture set up by NBC Universal and News Corp.

All told, Fancast will deliver “an outstanding entertainment experience,” Comcast Interactive Media president Amy Banse promised in April, when the operator sketched the outlines of Fancast.

A key piece of the strategy--as Comcast bids to become a major Internet media presence--is that Fancast isn’t noticeably tied to any traditional cable services.

For example, while the company’s provides grid listings only for Comcast systems, Fancast serves up listings for any cable, satellite or telephone provider.

Got FiOS TV? is happy to accommodate you, even if its parent company would rather you kicked Verizon Communications to the curb.