Comcast Takes Page from Mag Rack

Cable operator Comcast Corp. is planning to launch a slate of specialty "channels" created specifically for its video-on-demand service.

The idea is similar to Cablevision's faltering Mag Rack and will focus on niches that are too narrow to support a 24-hour network but of enough interest to draw some viewership.

Speaking at an overview of Comcast's operations in Philadelphia, EVP of programming investments Amy Banse said the venture would start up within 90 days and ultimately offer a slate of 30 programs on a host of topics. She described the venture as "like Mag Rack, but cheaper."

She has hired Matt Strauss, who recently left Mag Rack, to program the on-demand venture. Banse has long been interested in creating programming just for VOD, particularly because it's a service that DBS companies can't offer.

For now, the product will be carried only to Comcast systems--which have 21.5 million basic subscribers and about 7 million capable of ordering VOD programs.

But it later might be offered to other operators. Banse said Comcast hasn't ruled out carrying Mag Rack's programming as well.