Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSA) announced on Thursday that it will deliver unrestricted on-demand access to more than 100 television series during the week of March 25. In what the Philadelphia-based telecom giant is dubbing “Xfinity Watchathon Week,” Comcast is providing the free content to subscribers of Xfinity TV -- its video-on-demand service -- encouraging viewers to go on a television binge and catch up on what they might have missed the first time around. The promotion includes recent hits such as “Downton Abbey” and “Game of Thrones,” along with older shows such as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” Comcast is calling it “the biggest TV catch-up in history.”
The promotion, which includes more than 3,375 hours of television, is an indication that networks and cable providers are recognizing that the way people watch TV is rapidly changing. According to a study published last year by TiVo, only 38 percent of TV viewing is done live, with sports and news programming making up the majority of live viewing. And with the rise of time-shifted viewing, younger viewers are changing the ways they digest favorite shows, often binge-viewing through an entire season in a matter of days.
As such, Comcast’s promotion makes sense, especially in light of the serial nature of modern episodic television, where storylines often unfold slowly over the course of an entire season or even an entire series. And considering that Comcast has managed to solicit the participation of 30 major networks -- including premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz -- TV executives are no doubt eager for the chance to hook in more viewers. Typically, networks only provide limited content on demand, but appetites for on-demand access are growing, and cable providers are losing ground to companies such as Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) in the emergent on-demand industry.
From that perspective, “Watchathon Week” could be seen as a kind of TV-industry play on New York City’s Restaurant Week, the biannual event in which eateries across the city offer prix fixe meals at significantly lower prices in the hopes of turning transient diners into lifelong customers. If the idea catches on, expect seasonal “Watchathons” to become a regular part of the TV landscape. Take that, sweeps week.
Comcast’s “Watchathon Week” takes place March 25-31. Shares of Comcast closed Thursday at $41.16, up 57 cents.