Fancast is a new entertainment portal from Comcast.
Currently in beta version testing, the portal aims to be “the one place where you can find what to watch, where to watch, when to watch it — plus all the video, photos and facts you crave.”
Fancast beta is now open to the public and provides a comprehensive database of TV shows, movies, actors, directors, movie trailers and various other video clips.
Think of it as web 2.0 meets IMDB meets TV Guide. In order to enjoy all features and use Fancast to its full extent, you must become a registered user and inform the site of your likes and dislikes by using a rating system and the “favorites” feature.
Taking a further look at what Comcast has built, I discovered that this portal has a lot of potential and combines several interesting and useful features into one central, free service. It does, however, have its fair share of drawbacks.
After signing up for this service, I filled out a short preferences page with no more than 5 questions for me, including what area I live in (by zip code) and who my cable service provider is (which happens to be Verizon FiOS, a competitor of Comcast).
It was very quick and simple, which impressed me, and it was able to give the service a head start on providing suggestions on what I should watch, which is the primary mission of the service.
Once I clicked to view the TV listings, I was surprised to see that it provided me with the full channel listing and programming lineup for my Verizon FiOS television service.
Since Verizon’s FiOS TV is a competitor to Comcast’s cable offerings, I was expecting the site to only provide Comcast channel lineups. Kudos to Comcast for being brave enough to provide information from the competition.
A great addition to the service are video clips of movie trailers, interviews and news. Although the service just recently launched, the video database seems to have quite a large variety of great video content.
Also worth noting, Fancast has a fun feature called “Six Degrees.” It follows the style of the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” game by providing related content, people or genres that, in some way, are related to the listing you are viewing.
When viewing a listing, there is a section titled “Browse related” which offers links to other related listings. This section ties into the Six Degrees features by showing you how the suggested listing is related to the one that you are currently viewing.
One of the first things I noticed about Fancast is the tagging system that provides descriptive tags for each listing.
I thought this was great and would allow users to help define listings, until I discovered that users cannot add tags. Why not? Tagging has become a staple of web 2.0, but most sites let the users add their own tags.
While on the subject of “tags,” I also noticed that the results of tag searches seem cluttered and unorganized. It would make sense, to me, to at least organize the results into categories (Movies, TV Shows, People).
This was not the case, however, when performing a traditional search, which categorizes the results and allows you to narrow your results by choosing a category (TV, Movies, People, Tags).
Another concern that I had with Fancast deals with the TV listings. It has the ability to filter what channels/programming are shown to you, but there are not enough filters to choose from.
As of now, the only choices are movies, sports, kids, and HD. What about TV shows? How about filters for genres, such as drama, romantic, or comedy?
Perhaps by biggest concerns with Fancast, right now, are the slow page loading times. Since the majority of the site is flash and graphic-intensive, this could be an issue for users with slower connections.
Eventually, Fancast plans to provide full-length television shows from Comcast networks as well as NBC, Fox, and others through a content-distribution deal that Comcast has entered into with NBC and News Corporation’s joint “billion dollar” venture.
We will have to wait and see how this plays out, since NBC Universal and News Corp. have yet to develop a name or website, let alone a service to provide to others.
Currently, there is a “Movie Tickets” link in to top menu of the service that allows users to buy movie theater tickets by linking to the website, which was purchased by Comcast in April. Later down the road, Comcast plans to integrate some Fandango features directly into Fancast.
Overall, I found Fancast to provide a useful service. It is great for anyone who wants to discover new television programming and movies that they may like. Also, it provides detailed and useful TV listings for most cable providers, which is a big plus.
If Comcast can keep up the good work and resolve some of its beta launch issues, it could eventually have the “outstanding entertainment experience” that it envisioned back in April.
Michael Garrett is a contributing author discussing the social networking world, his work can be found on Profy.com
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