LOS ANGELES — Free subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) represents just one marketing tactic Comcast Corp. is evaluating in order to remove barriers to consumer acceptance regarding new on-demand video services, company officials said Wednesday during the opening session of CTAM's Digital Conference.

Other carrots Comcast will dangle in front of potential VOD subscribers include discounted movies, and free access to on-demand kids programming and cable networks, and tiered VOD services.

Comcast, among the most aggressive MSOs when it comes to VOD, has launched the service commercially in 19 systems. The company plans to market VOD services to consumers "full-scale" with direct mail and video promotions by the second half of the year, said David Watson, executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service.

VOD represents a "booster rocket" to help cable take its digital business to new levels, added Comcast Vice President of Marketing and NewProducts Andy Addis.

On digital churn, conference keynoter John Sie, chairman ofStarz Encore Group, urged MSO leaders to maintain their focus on launching new SVOD services, and not to spend too much time strategizing. "Digital growth share is critical," he said, alluding to eroding market share attributed to DBS, cable's toughest competitor.

Sie added that the cable has a window of opportunity against DBS, as execs at EchoStar and DirecTV handle their pending merger.

Sie also argued that forthcoming Internet VOD services such as Movielink are not a threat to the cable industry, but legitimize the need for cable modem-based streaming applications. Still, the service — which is backed by MGM Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. - is "egging cable on" to do more with VOD and perhaps push the needle to get better splits in content negotiations.