Comcast (CMCSA) launched its online unit, Comcast Interactive Media, in 2006 with the goal of making the biggest cable company a huge Web player, too. Under president Amy Banse, the company has spent more than $500 million on acquisitions, including ThePlatform, Fandango, Plaxo. This week, it snapped up Disney’s (DIS) Movies.com.
So what are the results? Well, it’s bigger than it used to be. The unit inherited Comcast’s consumer portal, Comcast.net, with 15 million monthly unique visitors. Fandango and Movies.com added 6 million and 4 million respectively (all numbers per Comcast). Home-grown Fancast, a sort-of-Hulu, sort-of-portal, has less than 2 million monthly uniques, according to Quantcast. So for argument’s sake, let’s peg Comcast’s monthly Web audience at 27 million or so.
That’s more than Amazon’s movie site, IMDB.com (23 million), but less than CNN’s 33 million U.S. monthly uniques, according to Nielsen. Banse explained how Comcast plans to keep expanding that audience, and what it wants to do with the visitors it does have.
Silicon Alley Insider: What is the endgame for Fancast? Why would a cable company build a Web video site that offers Hollywood movies and TV shows? Isn’t that why people subscribe to cable TV?
Amy Banse: The endgame is to have everything that’s available free online available at Fancast. To the extent it’s not available on Fancast, we tell customers were they can get it. No one else is out there doing a one-stop shop across multiple screens like we are trying to do.
SAI: Is it easier getting content deals since you’re Comcast — the single-biggest distributor of cable TV?
Banse: We have a seat at the table. Our leverage with the broadcast networks is different than the cable networks because they make all their revenue from advertising. They see online as another window to distribute their wares. Cable has two revenue streams and a company like Comcast pays billions of dollars a year for content. If you put that stuff online for free, why should we pay to have it on cable?
SAI: You’ve got plenty of network and cable deals, but not ABC. Why?
Banse: I think ABC will venture out a bit a and make content available on more sites. For the broadcast networks — including NBC and Fox through Hulu — their end goal is less how much traffic they can drive [to a Web site] and more how many views they get across the Web. ABC has woken up to the fact that there maybe something to syndication.
SAI: How big is your appetite for further acquisitions?
Banse: We are on a mission to grow, and we believe in organic growth and growth through acquisitions.
SAI: What’s the timeframe for profitability?
Banse: We’ll be profitable later this year. Comcast.net is a big site and gets a lot of traffic. We have nice deals; a search deal with Google and display advertising deal with Yahoo. Fandango and Movies.com were profitable when we bought them. ThePlatform will turn profitable later this year. Fancast is still investing. It’s a very ambitious road map.
Comcast: Dump Fancast, Buy Netflix
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