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Quick and Dirty

I Want My MPT

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 1/18/2006

Political geeks who miss important doings in the Maryland General Assembly this session can—if they’ve got digital cable from Comcast—order up “on demand” coverage, according to the company. The service began on Friday, Jan. 13, and is available to subscribers in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, plus the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis. Comcast’s On Demand service allows customers to order programs to their screens any time after they first run.

The legislative video coverage will come from Maryland Public Television, which broadcasts two hours of house and/or senate hearings-chosen by the offices of Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s), and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel)—each Tuesday through Friday at midnight, MPT spokesman Larry Hoffman says.

Comcast spokesman Jim Gordon says the company has “just over a million” cable subscribers in Maryland, about half of whom have digital set boxes that allow them to order programming through On Demand. He says those 500,000 digital subscribers ordered On Demand programming 87 million times in 2005, adding that karaoke was a big hit on Thanksgiving. “The product has just exploded and grown faster, gone father than we thought it was going to,” Gordon says. “People are just consuming this at a rate that is unbelievable.”

Viewers can order Comcast’s “limited” cable TV service—the bare-bones basic setup—for about $12 per month, Gordon says. That includes Maryland Public Television, but fewer channels, no digital, and no On Demand services. To get digital, customers must buy the company’s “expanded basic” package, which he says averages about $50 per month, plus the digital option for an additional $11 to $15 per month. People without cable television could set their VCRs to tape that coverage and watch it later, Gordon acknowledges. But it just wouldn’t be as cool.

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