Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) may attempt to use group discounts similar to those marketed by Groupon and LivingSocial to sell movies on its Xfinity On Demand platform the same day they are released in theaters, according to a U.S. Patent application obtained by FierceCable.
Comcast filed the patent application in November 2011, weeks after it killed a controversial plan to sell a VOD version of the Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy Tower Heist for $60 three weeks after it was to be released in theaters. The MSO scrapped the idea after theater owners threatened to boycott the film from Comcast subsidiary Universal Pictures.
The patent application, titled "Media Content Delivery," was published last week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. While the USPTO recently issued a non-final rejection of the application, records show that Comcast has amended some of the claims in the patent.
Comcast outlines a strategy that would rely on marketing paid VOD movies through social networks and group discount offers, explaining how it would be able to alter the price of an on-demand movie based on the number of viewers who agree in advance to buy it.
"In a single tier discount system, the one or more media content may be offered at $7 if 500 end users or content consumers have accepted the media content offer. In a double tier discount structure, the one or more media content may be offered at $6 if 800 end users or content consumers have accepted the media content offer and $7 if 500 end users or content consumers have accepted the media content offer," Comcast states as an example cited in the application.
Comcast says it may be able to use the approach to sell access to theatrical releases before they are released widely in movie theaters. "The time of release for the recipient group (e.g., individuals registered with a particular service) may be a time prior to the theatrical release date or time of a movie, such as a pre-release date, and the time of release for the general public may be the theatrical release date of a movie," Comcast wrote.
Inventors listed on the patent application are Scott Hilson, associate creative director for user interfaces at Comcast, and Lisa Hoppes, information architect at Comcast Interactive Media.
A Comcast spokesman declined to comment on the filing.
- see the patent application
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