Comcast customers can now buy access to “House of Cards” season 1 through their cable set-top box and watch it across multiple devices WITHOUT a required subscription to Netflix.
The cable giant struck a pact with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, giving Comcast rights to sell the Emmy-winning first season of “House of Cards” through the recently launched Xfinity Store service. Netflix currently owns exclusive streaming rights to the Media Rights Capital-produced series, while Sony handles international and home-video distribution.
Comcast’s plan to sell “HoC” season 1 — at $1.99 per episode — seems perplexing, given Netflix’s $7.99 per month price point. But it’s interesting body language from the No. 1 MSO, given Netflix’s desire to reach a deal to have its service embedded into Comcast set-tops. Meanwhile “House of Cards” first season has been available on other EST services, including Amazon and Walmart’s Vudu, priced at $1.99 per episode — a tough sell, no doubt, given Netflix’s $7.99 per month price point.
In addition, Comcast will add select Sony titles to its early electronic sell-through service, which offers access ahead of the traditional VOD-rental window. The first of these is ”American Hustle,” to be available for rent or purchase starting Tuesday, followed by Tom Hanks-starrer ”Captain Phillips” in a few weeks.
Comcast has said in the past it has had considerable success in electronic sell-through with movies like "Despicable Me 2," "Fast and Furious 6" and "The Hunger Games." Other Sony pics and TV shows in the mix — to become available within the coming weeks — include “Breaking Bad,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “21 Jump Street.”
Meanwhile, another popular Netflix drama original, “Orange Is the New Black,” will be hitting the Comcast Xfinity Store on May 13, through the operator’s distribution deal with Lionsgate.
Comcast’s deal with Sony was announced by Neil Smit, Comcast Cable president and CEO, at Deutsche Bank’s 2014 Media, Internet and Telecom Conference on Monday.
Comcast launched the Xfinity Store service in November with partners Universal Pictures (owned by Comcast), 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate. Cable operator touted early success of the EST service, noting it was the No. 1 digital sales partner for Universal’s “Despicable Me 2″ for the week ended Dec. 3, according to the studio.
“It’s surprised us how well the product has done,” Smit said. “The value of the product is the currency… It comes out before VOD, and you don’t have to go to a laptop or a smartphone — you can order it right from your TV.”
Comcast’s launch of Xfinity Store follows Verizon’s FiOS Flex View, which has offered movies for purchase and viewable on multiple devices since late 2010.
Comcast subs who buy a TV show or movie from their set-top box or from xfinity.com/store may watch the purchased titles in multiple ways: on TV through Xfinity On Demand; on a computer from the website; or with the Xfinity On Demand Purchases app for iOS and Android.
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable operator, had 21.7 million video subscribers as of the end of 2013. The MSO last month announced an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion, a deal currently undergoing regulatory review. Comcast expects to achieve $1.5 billion in synergies by absorbing Time Warner Cable, with 50% of that in the first year.
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