Comcast on Demand is coming to Summit County Comcast customers who pay for standard packages or higher, and with it comes the Ski Channel. Comcast on Demand will be offered at the end of this year or early next, said Cindy Parsons, Comcast's vice president of public relations.
The service allows viewers to choose from approximately 18,000 hours of television programming, including sports, movies and kids' shows - "almost everything you can imagine on your regular, linear channels," Parsons said, adding that the majority of the content will be free, though movies and shows on premium channels that standard users may not pay for will cost an additional fee. The new option allows viewers to watch shows anytime they want and enables them to pause, rewind and fast-forward programs. (Basic package customers will not receive Comcast on Demand.)
One of the offerings perhaps most relevant to Summit County viewers is the introduction of the Ski Channel, which presents original programming, such as talk shows focusing on ski professionals and industry trends, Warren Miller movies, Greg Stump films, destination travel information, instructional videos and more. The network has been around for 18 months, and it's been available on every cable operator except Comcast - until now. The new deal with Comcast - which took awhile because it's "more complicated that other deals," said Ski Channel CEO and founder Steve Bellamy - brings the channel into 40 percent of homes in the nation, as well as about 100 percent of ski homes, Bellamy said.
"The Ski Channel brings great independent programming to our customers and is a unique and targeted fit for many of our local markets," said Matt Strauss, senior vice president of New Media at Comcast.
Bellamy, who also created the Tennis Channel with great success, said the Ski Channel has "an evangelist platform to promote skiing and other mountain activities."
"We want to nurture and shepherd the health and well-being of skiing," he said, adding that he loves the sport because it's (usually) a noncompetitive, outdoor, fitness activity that the whole family can do together. "We're extremely bullish on promoting skiing, and we're extremely Colorado-centric ... our mission is to get people on the hill."
The Ski Channel contains "an enormous amount of content from Summit County resorts," he said.
It will differ from Outside Television by always offering uncut movies and different shows.
In addition to its television programming, The Ski Channel has produced original films, which will tour nationwide, in cooperation with ski clubs and shops. That means, in addition to Warren Miller's (and other film company's) annual premieres, ski enthusiasts will have the opportunity to watch a feature-length film when the tour comes through Colorado in mid-October.
The signature film, "The Story," stars Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Willie Bogner, Kristi Leskinen, Chris Benchetler, Reggie Crist, Zack Crist, Mike Douglas and numerous other stars of skiing, snowboarding, wing-suit flying, speed flying, river surfing and kite skiing. Producers shot footage at the top of Mount Everest and Alaska.
"It's a celebration of people who love to ski," Bellamy said.
The second feature is a full-length documentary on Bill Johnson, "skiing's greatest rebel and cult hero," Bellamy said. He won the downhill in the 1984 Olympics, earned two World Cup victories, "and then it was gone," Phil Mahre said of Johnson's life in the film.
A shorter documentary follows Shane McConkey for four days, before he died in a ski wing-suit base jump.
And that's only where the Ski Channel begins.
"We deal with the big stars of skiing every day," Bellamy said, "and we're always mining new stories."