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Comcast arranges TV ‘watchathon’

– The nation’s largest cable company is planning a TV “watchathon” for the last week of March, collaborating with several television networks to make entire series available for free on demand.

Comcast Corp.’s plan encourages binge viewing, where people spend hours catching up on TV series they may have missed the first time around and serves as a grand look into what may be the future of TV viewing.

Comcast has convinced more than 30 TV networks to make their programming available for the promotion March 25-31. More than 3,500 TV episodes will be offered, said Matt Strauss, senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms for Comcast.

Broadcast networks such as ABC and CBS generally make only the four most recent episodes of a series available to on-demand services. For the promotion, participating networks will make all of a season’s episodes available for people to catch up on viewing.

Comcast customers will also have free access to premium networks such as HBO and Showtime, which they would normally pay extra for, during the promotion. In many cases, entire histories of programs such as “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland” and “Girls” will be available, along with some old series such as “The Sopranos.”

The sheer size of Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, is what gives the experiment its resonance. Roughly 20 percent of the nation’s TV households are Comcast customers.

For the television networks, the experiment offers viewers a chance to catch up with or get acquainted with series they might not have followed. Lately, series such as “The Walking Dead” are increasing in ratings in a way that indicates many people are watching past episodes during lulls in the series and getting hooked.

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