Comcast announced today that its subscribers have watched 20 billion video-on-demand choices since the service was launched in 2003, which it claimed was an industry first in television.

Comcast marked the milestone with the launch of its Xfinity On Demand Awards, which honored the top-performing movies, TV series, musical artists and other programming as determined by what customers watched the most on the service.

"On-demand was the first technology to give millions of our customers instant access to entertainment choices to watch on their schedule," said Marcien Jenckes, senior vice president and general manager of video services at Comcast. "By making a huge library of content available for free with a click of the remote, on demand was an instant hit and continues to drive viewership. The service has been a major influence in the adoption of time-shifted viewing, which has now become mainstream."

On-demand programming gave Comcast and other cable operators an early edge over their competitors, as satellite providers weren't initially able to offer choices for downloading, and telcos had to build their networks and then their VOD libraries after cable already had their services in place.

Comcast launched VOD to half of its customer base eight years ago, with 740 movies, music videos and cartoons from a handful of content providers. Available today to 20 million customers, VOD usage continues to climb, with approximately 350 million programs viewed each month.

Over the years, both the number of entertainment views and choices on the service has increased dramatically:

Entertainment views (overall)

  1. 2003: 200 million entertainment views
  2. 2005: 1 billion entertainment views
  3. 2007: 5 billion entertainment views
  4. 2009: 14 billion entertainment views
  5. 2011: 20 billion entertainment views (to date)

Entertainment choices

  1. 2003: <1,000 entertainment choices
  2. 2005: 3,500 entertainment choices
  3. 2007: 13,000 entertainment choices
  4. 2009: 17,000 entertainment choices
  5. 2011: 25,000 entertainment choices

Among the winners for the Xfinity On Demand Awards, "South Park" took top honors for most-watched TV series, while "The Hangover" was first in the overall most-viewed new release movies category.