Comcast Corp. has signed a licensing agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment that will increase the number of titles offered for sale through Comcast's recently launched digital store.
The deal with Sony is noteworthy because it allows Comcast customers to purchase digital copies of such Oscar-nominated movies as "American Hustle," and "Captain Phillips" from Comcast's Xfinity On Demand digital service.
"American Hustle" will be available beginning Tuesday, and "Captain Phillips" and other movies, including "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," will be available within a few weeks.
Television titles also are in the mix, including Netflix's buzzed-about series, "House of Cards," which is distributed by Sony, and AMC's "Breaking Bad," which ended its acclaimed television run last summer. Sony produced "Breaking Bad."
Filling the shelves of its Xfinity On Demand store, which opened in November, has been one of Comcast's corporate priorities.
The company has been rolling out upgrades and new services to try to retain cable customers and sign new ones amid increasing competition from telephone companies and digital streaming services.
The nation's largest cable company last month announced a $45.2-billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which will give Comcast more than 30 million cable subscribers and operations in the nation's largest markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.
The Xfinity On Demand store offers Comcast customers with an alternative to streaming services such as Amazon.com and Netflix.
With the Sony deal, Comcast will go a step further by offering its customers an opportunity to watch Netflix's highest-profile original production without signing up for Netflix.
"We launched [the electronic sell-through service] in November and it is growing at a great pace," Comcast Cable Chief Executive Neil Smit told investors Monday at the Deutsche Bank media conference in Palm Beach, Fla.
"We just signed Sony this morning where we will get movies like 'Captain Phillips' and back episodes of shows like 'House of Cards' and 'Orange Is the New Black,'" Smit said. "We would like to extend that."
Comcast has structured deals with most of the major Hollywood studios, including the studio it owns, Universal Pictures, as well as 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate. Last month, Comcast signed a deal with Warner Bros., which gave it the opportunity to sell copies of such films as "Argo" and "Gravity."
Comcast has not completed deals with Walt Disney Co., Viacom's Paramount Pictures or MGM.
Copies of the Sony-distributed TV shows will be sold for $1.99 to $2.99 per episode, depending on whether consumers want high-definition or standard-definition formats. The price to buy a digital copy of a movie varies, but typically ranges from $16.99 to $18.99 a movie.
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