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Published: Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View / Comcast's 'Watchathon'

Tuning in to TV viewers

Like the invention of the universal remote control, here's a great idea that benefits people who watch television: Comcast Corp. is collaborating with more than 30 TV networks to make all of their series available for free during the last week of March through Comcast's "On Demand" feature.
More than 3,500 television episodes will be offered during the "Watchathon," said Comcast's Matt Strauss. During the promotion, even premium channels like HBO and Showtime will be free.
"We're at an inflection point in how people watch television," Strauss told the Associated Press.
It's unclear what that means, but if it means possibly giving the customer more, instead of less, with each annual rate hike, that would be a good inflection point. If it means networks and cable companies cooperating, and consumers benefiting, ditto.
Comcast's promotion, according to the Associated Press, "encourages binge viewing, where people spend hours catching up on television series they may have missed the first time around and serves as a grand look into what may be the future of TV viewing."
("Binge viewing" makes it sound as if people don't spend hours at a time in front of the TV without a promotion, but in reality we do. It just means watching episodes of the same show, or the entire series.) Regardless, the part about it being the future of TV viewing, however, should appeal to networks, advertisers, show creators, and viewers. Everyone should be "all in" for "On Demand" if "supply and demand" means anything.
Since forever, TV networks have competed by putting their best shows up against other networks' best shows, forcing viewers to choose between them. But such programming makes no sense, at least to people who do the actual TV watching. If a person likes sitcoms, for example, they are more inclined to want to watch CBS' "Big Bang Theory" and NBC's "Community." "On Demand" allows someone to do just that. It allows people to watch shows that are on past their bedtimes.
Currently, networks generally only make a few recent episodes available, but it's hard to understand why. Once a person does become hooked on a show, they do want to catch up and watch them all. And here's the beauty part for networks and advertisers: "On Demand's" "fast forward" function can be disabled so commercials and network promos remain intact. That's a good deal. More people watching more shows, and more advertising.
Networks might be encouraged to make more of their programming available if the week is successful, Comcast said.
Successful? It will be so popular Neilsen won't even be able to put a number on it. Make it permanent.

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Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor:

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer:

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