In a landmark departure from its rental-only movie approach, Comcast Corp. has begun selling flicks to customers in the greater Boston market through set-top boxes weeks before they are available for purchase on DVD – and afterward.

While the media giant still rents typically one-view only movies for $4.99 SD or $5.99 in HD format from its video-on-demand (VoD) system, it's now offering titles such as Two Guns (a Universal picture) promoted as now available in TV ads this week on DVD, The Big Wedding, Fast and Furious 6, The Purge and Red 2 at either $16.99 or $19.99. Some "older" movies available for $12.99. The Comcast website lists The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros), with an 11/19 availability date.

"Access any time in the purchases menu on your favorite device," reads the info box for each title. Comcast is promoting the buy option with audio instructions from its main VoD menu. Customers are directed to view purchase terms at and then press Buy to agree from their remotes.

DVD movie purchases have been flat at best while rentals are available from kiosk distribution pioneer Redbox for $1.20, but must be returned the next evening. The cable kingpin, which purchased NBC Universal for a total of about $20 billion, is said to be preparing to sell this content earlier after theater debut. The effort will extend to include TV shows, with purchase from Comcast's website added.

The move to movie sales across multiple platforms appears to be a natural progression to selling movies sooner to or at the same time they debut in theaters. Netflix recently expressed an interest in offering subscribers movies the same day they debut in cinemas. (Read more...)

Comcast has experience monetizing movies early as it has been offering titles from certain independent studios before they reach theaters for rentals prices higher than other flicks. (Read more...)

Interest from Netflix and this latest Comcast milestone seem to signal the beginning of the end of cinemas' arguably outdated role as the exclusive venue for new movies, or for the time being DVDs as viable option for purchasing post-cinema movies.

Stay tuned for additional details.

Comcast TV Store