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Comcast Offering Seven Hulu Originals Free for One Week as Part of ‘Xfinity Watchathon’

Todd Spangler

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Comcast’s annual Xfinity Watchathon Week — promoting free on-demand content from dozens of partners — this year will feature a collection of Hulu original shows for the first time.

As part of the massive 10,000-plus batch of free TV series and movies, available the week of May 11-17, the cable operator is including full seasons of seven Hulu original series: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Castle Rock,” “Dollface,” “High Fidelity,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Ramy” and “Shrill.” The free programming will be available to customers with Xfinity X1, Flex and Xfinity Stream.

The reason Comcast is shilling “Shrill” and other Hulu shows? The cable giant just added Hulu as a subscription option for X1 and Flex customers, under a deal with Disney (which last year acquired full control of Hulu). Pay-TV distributors frequently offer “freeview” periods of premium services to drive add-on purchases, and the same applies here.

Comcast’s basket of free Watchathon Week entertainment programming (which actually includes content that is regularly included for no extra cost to customers) comes from more than 70 networks and streaming services including Acorn TV, A&E, Afro, Aspire TV, Bravo, Bluprint, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Cine Mexicano, DogTV, Epix, Fox, HBO, History Vault, Hitz, Hulu, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Club, NBC, Nick Jr., MTV, National Geographic, Pantaya, PlayKids, Revolt, Showtime, Starz, TBS, USA Network, and VH1.

According to Comcast, its TV customers are spending more than 8 hours of additional time each week watching television compared with early March — rising from about 57 hours per week per household to 66 hours. It’s seen VOD usage climb about 50% over that time period along with a “slow decrease” in DVR usage. Comcast says it has seen an uptick in discovery-related voice commands such as “what to watch” and “surprise me,” which it said suggests “customers have checked off their TV bucket lists and are seeking new shows.”

In announcing the 2020 Watchathon Week, Comcast called out other titles that will be free the week of May 11-17 including HBO’s “Westworld”; Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem” and “Belgravia”; Starz’s “Outlander,” “Power” and new series “Hightown”; and Showtime’s “Billions.” Again, the point is to get Xfinity customers hooked on shows in the hopes that they’ll subscribe to premium services.

The cable operator also noted that Xfinity X1 and Flex customers can access the “early preview” of NBCUniversal’s Peacock video product with over 15,000 hours of shows and movies included at no additional cost.

Also new for Comcast’s Watchathon Week this year, X1 customers can tune to a dedicated channel featuring the free programming curated by Xfinity’s team of editors. The channel can be accessed within the guide on channel 1. X1 customers can view all of the programming available to them during the week by saying “Watchathon” into the Xfinity Voice Remote or by browsing curated recommendations that will be updated daily.

According to Comcast, content availability may vary across the various Xfinity TV platforms — X1 set-tops, Flex for broadband-only customers, and the Xfinity Stream app.

(Pictured above: Elisabeth Moss in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”)