Comcast gives 'mini-binging' a look in trial with FX Network

Never one not to fast-follow, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has given the concept of TV binging a run-through on a smaller, more compact stage--'mini-binging' as USA Today put it--in an effort to combat OTT and drive subscribers from DVRs to video on demand.

Working with FX Network in a trial that ended this month, Comcast offered viewers of The Bridge the chance to stream the next episode as soon as the current one finished airing. FX, for its part, made six episodes of the current season available so it could observe VOD viewing habits.

As is to be expected, Comcast declined to offer traffic numbers but said the program be expanded if other networks want to take part.

Binge watching has become a fact of life on both pay TV services--where viewers record multiple episodes of a program on DVRs and go through them sequentially--and OTT, where viewers just grab a block of a program and watch episodes back-to-back. DVRs, while convenient for consumers, also allow them to fast forward through commercials, which does nothing for cable operators' relationship with advertisers. VOD, hailed as a more convenient way to get programming, disables fast forward.

"They're (pay TV providers) all trying to slow the usage of DVRs," Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research told the newspaper. "The more they can push you to on-demand, the more they can make sure you see advertising. The question is whether forcing you to watch 20-plus minutes of advertising (for an hour show) will work in the world where DVR continues to be popular."

And thus the concept of mini-binging built around Comcast's X1 platform, with the carrot of seeing the next episode of a program just after the current one--available to all viewers--has expired.

"Blurring the lines between live, on-demand and the DVR content was a key strategy in the X1 development," Matt Strauss, senior vice president of video services said in the story.

For more:
- USA Today has this story

Related articles:
Consumers have no love for online video's cruddy, repetitive commercials, study says
Netflix's Hunt sees TV future without commercials, cable bundles
NBCU signs exclusive licensing deal with Hulu