Fanning the Flame

Mar 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Overshadowed by the more popular Hulu, Comcast-owned online video portal Fancast is tapping its parent’s connections to make a bigger name for itself online.
Fancast, an online video destination for television shows, draws nearly 3 million unique visitors each month, less than half of Hulu’s audience. But Fancast is rolling out a new strategy to leverage its Comcast ownership in several ways, said Karin Gilford, senior VP of Fancast and online entertainment for Comcast Interactive Media.
In the coming months, Fancast will develop joint promotions with Comcast-owned cable networks including G4, E! and Style. Fancast also will play a central role in the cable operator’s “On-Demand Online,” an extension of the company’s video-on-demand service to the Web that begins rollouts in the summer. Fancast also markets the site via cross-channel spots to Comcast’s 25 million cable customers. That may help expand the reach of Fancast to online video viewers.
“You will see Fancast and the Comcast cable networks work more closely together in the coming months,” Ms. Gilford said. “We can use Fancast as one of the ways to super-serve the Comcast footprint and also reach out to a national audience.”
Growing Ad Market
Leaning on its corporate parent may help Fancast gain a leg up on the competition. Fancast, Hulu and new competitor TV.com all are gunning for the same thing online—the $850 million in advertising that’s expected to flow into the online video sector this year, up 45% from 2008, according to research firm eMarketer. Most of those dollars will land with professionally produced content from TV networks and studios.
Hulu leads the pack in recognition, but competition for precious ad dollars is heating up—especially because the online video sector is one of the few ad mediums expected to grow this year.
Fancast offers more than 7,000 hours of TV shows from more than 100 content providers, including NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. Hulu has 180 major brands advertising against more than 7,000 hours of content from 130-plus programming partners. Fancast has an advantage in that it carries programs from CBS and ABC, while Hulu only links to their shows. Over on Fancast, the site embeds Hulu’s player for NBC and Fox shows.
The two portals also are partners. Along with MSN, Yahoo, AOL and MySpace, Fancast is one of the original distribution partners for Hulu content. That means Hulu content is embedded on the Fancast site, including NBC and Fox shows.
“We have very tight partnerships today with sites that some would say compete with us head-on, and we are very comfortable with that and consider them to be very successful partnerships,” said Andy Forssell, senior VP of content and distribution for Hulu.
Ms. Gilford won’t disclose financials for Fancast, but she said revenue is growing as traffic rises. Usage to the site has risen three times year-over-year, she said.
“We feel like this is one of the hottest things going on in the Internet in online TV. Having a lively competition with Hulu and Fancast and TV.com raises overall awareness,” she said.
TV.com is growing too, and tripled its monthly unique users in January after adding full episodes of TV shows. But Hulu recently pulled its content from TV.com, which could stifle the site’s growth.
Fancast’s promotions with sister Comcast networks should start soon. G4 plans to start using Fancast’s channel-finder feature on its site G4tv.com, while Fancast likely will feature G4’s video-game trailers to enhance gaming content on its site, said G4 President Neal Tiles.
Different Strategies
While Hulu and Fancast are both competitors and partners, they also have different end games, said Will Richmond, analyst with VideoNuze.com.
“Hulu is much more driven by ad revenue alone, where for Fancast it’s less about the specific revenue Fancast generates and more about how it fits in as a value-add for Comcast subscribers,” he said. “They want to make it a real hub for existing subscribers, and they see it as part of an integrated vision of a multiplatform company.”
Fancast isn’t yet on the radar for most consumers, said Kaan Yigit, an analyst with Solutions Research Group.
Hulu is generating most of the attention as an online video destination. In an emerging industry, there is usually one room for one or two brands in most people’s minds, he said. “Hulu is becoming synonymous with online TV among early adopters,” he said.
“I don’t think Fancast is trying to compete with anyone, really,” Mr. Yigit added. “I see it as a repository for learning for Comcast … like a trial ground for new things, and the learning is leveraged with their content partners.”


  1. “Fancast also markets the site via cross-channel spots to Comcast’s 25 million cable customers.”
    Interesting. I’ve been a Comcast subscriber for years and I’ve never seen a Fancast spot. They must be running them only on channels I don’t watch.

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