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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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Comcast / NBC Universal launching Netflix-like streaming service


"Oceans Eleven"

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest industry news.


With an eye toward holding onto current subscribers and attracting new ones who may be tempted by Netflix, Comcast Corp. is rolling out a new subscription streaming service that boasts a mix of TV re-runs and older films.

Called Xfinity Streampix, the service launches this week and allows users to watch content on televisions and Internet-connected digital devices like smartphones.

It will be free to customers who get their video, Internet and phone service from Comcast. People who get only their TV from the company will pay $5 per month. Netflix streaming costs $8 per month.
While the new service inevitably drew comparisons to Netflix, and spurred a 3% drop in that company's stock Tuesday, there are notable differences. Comcast's initial agreements with Walt Disney Co., Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., and NBC Universal (which the cable giant owns) provide it with less content than Netflix currently offers.

Xfinity Streampix users will get access to television shows like "30 Rock" and "Grey's Anatomy" and films like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Ocean's Eleven," but can't watch TV shows like "Mad Men" and movies like "Drive" that are exclusively on Netflix.

In addition, while anyone with an Internet connection and a digital device can access Netflix, Xfinity Streampix is available only to the people who live in areas covered by Comcast. Currently, there are 23.2 million homes that have Comcast television service, including many in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.  Los Angeles is not part of the Comcast footprint, which also covers Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami and Houston.

"We have no plans to take this outside our footprint," Marcien Jenckes, Comcast's general manager of video services, said in an interview. "It is not at all our intention to compete with Netflix."

Among cable companies, Comcast has been the most aggressive in adding new services to respond to the explosion of portable devices while trying to retain its core customers.

"This is an extension of our strategy to give consumers the content that they love where and when they want it," Jenckes said. "This just makes our existing subscriptions more valuable."

Netflix is not the only threat. The service could make Comcast more attractive, in the company's service areas, than subscriptions offered by satellite companies Dish Network and DirecTV and telephone companies Verizon and AT&T.

This new service adds to the more than 75,000 TV shows and movies currently available on Comcast's Xfinity On Demand service. Users pay for each film or episode through that more traditional video on-demand offering, which features more recent movies than the subscription package.



RELATED:
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Netflix discussing deal with ex-HBO Films chief Colin Callender
Robert Rodriguez joins Magic Johnson, Sean Combs in Comcast TV group

-- Meg James and Ben Fritz

Photo: Brad Pitt and George Clooney in "Ocean's Eleven." Credit: Bob Marshak / Warner Bros.


Arizona GOP Debate expected to focus on Immmigration

 ¡Cuéntame!
 
Are you ready for the anti-immigrant showdown that will be the Arizona GOP debate? Immigration has been discussed here and there throughout the primaries but in “show-me-your-papers-state,” Arizona, the issues is expected to be highlighted.

Batter Up!

Party! It's Mardi Gras!

From Yahoo!

From the family-friendly avenues of the Garden District to raunchy displays in the French Quarter, New Orleans let loose with a Fat Tuesday party as parades rolled and revelers frolicked amid showers of beads, trinkets and music.

The French Quarter began to fill with costumed revelers soon after dawn. Some people hadn't stopped drinking since Monday's Lundi Gras prequel to Mardi Gras.

Wearing a bright orange wig, a purple mask and green shoes, New Orleans resident Charlotte Hamrick walked along Canal Street to meet friends.

"I'll be in the French Quarter all day," Hamrick said. "I don't even go to the parades. I love to take pictures of all the costumes and just be with my friends. It's so fun."

Across the globe, people dressed up in elaborate costumes and partied the day away. In Rio de Janeiro, an estimated 850,000 tourists joined the city's massive five-day blowout. Meanwhile, the Portuguese, who have suffered deeply in Europe's debt crisis, defied a government appeal to keep working.

In New Orleans, Brittany Davies was struggling through the early morning hours. Still feeling the effects of heavy drinking from the night before, her friends had her out again on Tuesday.

"They're torturing me," the Denver woman joked. "But I'll be OK after a bloody mary."

Birth of the Largest Union in Hollywood Faces Voters Test


Celebs endorse SAG, AFTRA merger

George Clooney, Robert DeNiro, c, Octavia Spencer and Betty White have come on board as endorsers of the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
The quintet was listed as more than 75 "featured supporters" on the unions' official merger site Monday at www.sagaftra.org. Other high-profile backers include Jon Cryer, Jane Curtin, Dana Delaney, Danny DeVito, Jenna Fischer, Felicity Huffman, Alfred Molina and Rainn Wilson.

The web site features a "statement of support" section where several hundred members have endorsed the merger.





"A merger of AFTRA and SAG will increase our bargaining strength and give us more power to safeguard our wages, residuals, working conditions and, of course, our benefits of health and retirement (pension and health)," the statement says. "Our employers operate across all types of media. We must have the power to meet them as one union with one voice."

Ballots will go out Feb. 27 to 120,000 SAG members and 70,000 AFTRA members. Ballots will be tabulated March 30 and 60% of those voting in both unions must approve for the merger to go through.
Merger opponents have contended that the combo of unions solve problems in such areas as split SAG and AFTRA earnings on pension and health contributions and will not lead to increased negotiating strength. But candidates backing merger have won nearly all the seats in recent elections.

Clooney, DeNiro, Hanks and Meryl Streep became involved in SAG politics in early 2008 by urging SAG leaders to begin contract negotiations as early as possible. SAG didn't sign a deal on its feature-primetime contract until mid-2009.

The 18-page document that's being sent to members next week was posted Sunday night on the www.sagaftra.org site. The document includes a 1,000 opposition statement and rebuttals to that statement by both unions.


 An attorney for opponents issued a statement Monday criticizing the rebuttals, asserting that the unions are making assertions than can't be backed up.

"They urge once again that the members should 'trust' that they will use the alleged increases in negotiating strength to negotiate contract benefits...that have been given away year after year," said David Casselman. "Merger will not change the fact that AFTRA and SAG have been negotiating together for decades. The solution is to merge actors, not unions."



Contact Dave McNary at dave.mcnary@variety.com