Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) plans to begin selling movies over its cable service before the end of the year, opening up a new way for the pay-TV provider and Hollywood studios to make money, a person familiar with the matter said.
Film sales would add to Comcast’s on-demand service, which currently lets viewers rent movies, not own them, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the plan is private. Comcast, the largest U.S. pay-TV provider, is working with all the major studios, including 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOXA), Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros. and its own Universal Pictures, the person said.
By joining with cable providers, studios could sell movies directly to pay-TV viewers at prices close to traditional DVDs, about $15 and $20 apiece, according to the person. Films would become available a few weeks before they’re released on DVD, the person said. Comcast, based in Philadelphia, has 20 million customers who use its digital service.
Hollywood studios have been searching for new sources of revenue to counter the decline of DVDs, underscored last week by the closing of the remaining Blockbuster video stores in the U.S. Sales of electronically distributed movies and TV shows jumped 46 percent in the third quarter, while total consumer spending on home entertainment was flat, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, a studio-backed association.
John Demming, a spokesman for Comcast, declined to comment, as did James Finn, a spokesman for Fox’s home-entertainment business. Paul McGuire, a spokesman for Warner Bros. in Burbank, California, also declined to comment.
Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and other companies already sell new home-video titles, after they’ve run in theaters, as well as older library films for digital download. Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)’s FiOS pay-TV service also sells films.
Dish Network Corp. (DISH) is considering a similar offering, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a person with knowledge of the situation. The newspaper reported on Comcast’s plan yesterday.
Comcast rose 0.1 percent to $47.73 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 28 percent this year, compared with 26 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.