Comcast continues to enhance and improve its online offerings, and now they've announced something called Fancast Xfinity–get it? It's like "infinity", but with an "X." It must be extreme or something.
Fancast, launched as a competitor to Hulu, has long been offering free movies and television episodes online. Fancast Xfinity takes things to a whole new level. Comcast customers that are dual subscribers (meaning they subscribe to Comcast cable television as well as high speed Internet service) will soon be able to use the new service to stream episodes of their favorite shows from all sorts of channels, such as TLC, AMC (Mad Men!), TNT, TBS, and more. Subscribers to regular Comcast cable service will simply need to log in at Fancast.com to be granted access.
The new content available to these customers will correspond directly to the tiered package they have for their home cable service. That means, if you have a television package that contains HBO, then your login will grant you access to streaming HBO shows. Sadly, the reverse is true. If you don't get HBO on your home tier (like me), then you won't get that programming on Xfinity.
All of this new streaming content is free, as it should be, because you've already paid for it through your normal bill. And the only limit to how much you're allowed to stream is related to the standard Comcast limit of 250GB per month.
Now, it just so happens that I am a Comcast customer, and I subscribe to the dual service package for Internet and cable. So I decided to check it out. The early verdict is quite good. The key difference here between this service and Hulu–which I love–is that Hulu mostly offers content from major networks (at least when it comes to television content). Fancast Xfinity is almost kind of the opposite, focusing on cable network content that has not really been available like this online before, at least not for free. (Don't forget that Comcast sort of owns Hulu now after their purchase of a ton of NBC stock).
I can envision a scenario where I'm out of town on a business trip, maybe a conference or something, and I want to catch up on shows I've missed. Maybe I didn't get to see the latest episode of Entourage or this week's Breaking Bad. Now, without having to wait for reruns occurring naturally in the broadcast schedule, I can simply pop open the laptop, log-in at Fancast.com, and watch those shows. It's pretty sweet, actually.
In fact, it's got me wondering about something: Is it possible that the DVR is going to die soon? D0n't get me wrong, I love my DVR, and would consider doing bodily harm to anyone that tried to remove it from my home. But this explosion of television on the web, from Hulu to Fancast to Amazon and iTunes… it's changing things, isn't it? We're rapidly approaching a time when I simply won't have a need to "record" shows anymore, because they'll be available to me in such a huge variety of ways. Of course, that's probably a long way off. There's still quite a bit of gap between the experience of watching television on your laptop and watching it on your giant flat-screen with surround sound. But as technology improves and prices drop, that gap will shrink, and I'll be curious to see what becomes of the DVR in the coming years.
If you're a Comcast customer, head over to Fancast.com and log in using the email address that was created when you first got your services installed at home, and check it out. I'd love to know what you think. In the meantime, I'm going to go catch up on Mad Men.