Let the games begin: Comcast, EPB offer bonus coverage, apps for Olympic market

Let the games begin: Comcast, EPB offer bonus coverage, apps for Olympic market

July 21st, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Jim Weigert of Comcast demonstrates the company's new AnyPlay program at the Comcast headquarters in Chattanooga. AnyPlay allows customers to watch live programming on their tablet anywhere in their home network while others watch a program on TV.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

Jim Weigert of Comcast demonstrates the company's new NBC Olympics mobile app at the Comcast headquarters in Chattanooga. The new app will give customers a unique interactive viewing experience that includes more content, control and mobility.

Jim Weigert of Comcast demonstrates the company's new...

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

The arrival of the Olympic Games has spurred Chattanooga-area TV and Internet providers to amp up their digital offerings, bringing new technology to bear on the London Olympics.

Both Comcast and EPB will offer multiple specialty channels for the duration of the games, as well as replays of events and highlights on demand.

With thousands of hours of events, the companies are hoping to simplify the experience of choosing what to watch and how to watch it.

"We've got every medal on every screen, every minute," said Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager of Comcast Chattanooga. "We're much more integrated into mobile devices, we're offering much more content, and the process is much smoother this year."

Comcast will offer a special Olympics filter on its Xfinity TV, tablet and online guides to allow Olympic fans to figure out which of the nine network channels they want to watch at any given moment.

In addition to the various NBC networks, both Comcast and EPB also will offer three distinct specialty channels.

One of those is a 3-D channel, which for the first time will display Olympic content in three dimensions for those with newer TVs.

With Comcast's latest AnyPlay service, users can watch any Olympic event in HD on their tablet or use their tablet as a remote control for an extra $10 per month.

The app, which launches Monday, turns a tablet into a Comcast HDTV and remote, as long as users remain within their home wireless network.

EPB doesn't have a tablet app yet, but the utility will launch an Olympic-centric SmartView option, which will display up to four channels of HD content simultaneously on a single TV screen.

Both Comcast and EPB customers will have access to NBC's Olympics app, a separate program created especially for the 2012 London Games.

Comcast and EPB will broadcast and stream thousands of hours of content, and both will offer branded microsites with news, videos and other Olympic features courtesy of NBC Universal, which owns the American broadcasting rights to the 2012 games.

Of the two, Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, has been able to leverage its size and complex offerings to tip the feature scale. While an EPB user may ultimately have faster service, Comcast is rolling out a monster set of new technologies.

For instance, an Xfinity customer can open a picture-in-picture Skype call with a friend who's watching the same event, while viewing a different live event on their tablet with AnyPlay. Meanwhile, a spouse with no interest in sports can watch "Happy Days" reruns on a PC or record "Burn Notice" from their cellphone without interrupting the gymnastics competition broadcasting in the living room.

The Skype option costs an additional $9.95 per month.

While EPB is slowly catching up to Comcast in terms of customers, it has lagged behind in On Demand offerings.

EPB reached 38,373 fiber-optic customers this month on the speed and stability of its fiber network, and offers about 10,000 pieces of On Demand content, according to EPB Chief Financial Officer Greg Eaves.

However, the utility will have a roughly equal amount of content as Comcast during the Olympics, due to ownership guidelines with NBC that forbid favoritism, Weigert said.

"There's no shortage of ways to get what you want," Weigert said. "It really starts with NBC's coverage."