Yesterday's Wall Street Journal featured a wide-ranging interview with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Comcast has grown into the USA's largest cable-TV operator, with more than 21 million subscribers -- and is also one of the largest Internet ISPs. In the interview, Roberts casually mentioned that Comcast is developing its own search technology, and the reporter pressed him for details:
WSJ: You mentioned the possibility of developing search-engine technology. What role would that play in television?
Mr. Roberts: We're approaching seven million users on Comcast's high speed Internet service... We also have video on-demand and a very exciting arrangement with Sony and MGM to get lots of movies and a deal with the NFL. In fact, we think eventually 10,000 hours will be available on demand. And if you then overlay that with access to the Internet, there is virtually unlimited content that consumers will be able to access on a television, a PC and perhaps on a mobile device. There is constantly going to be a need to make it easy for consumers to access what they want when they want it. Call it a search engine. Call it a portal. Call it an on-screen guide or navigation device.
It's highly unlikely that Comcast is developing its own technology, suggesting that one of the major search engines may be working with the company. Yahoo has the strongest multimedia search capabilities of the majors -- but don't overlook AOL, which purchased Singingfish last year. And you have to believe Google is at least considering multimedia search, an area where it is surprisingly lacking.
One thing is certain: We're one step closer to the widely touted "convergence" we've been hearing will arrive any day now.
Comcast's Big Bet on Content
The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 24, 2004
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