Comcast, just as the pay-TV industry may be hitting an irreversible decline in subscribers, is gearing up to launch what’s currently being called “Watchable”: an OTT platform outlet to serve up short form videos from partners on TV via set-tops, mobile apps and the Web. Publishers in the mix are said to include Buzzfeed, Vox Media (in which Comcast’s NBCUniversal has invested $200 million), AwesomenessTV, Vice Media, the Onion and Fullscreen.
The cable giant sees an opportunity to reap ad dollars by aggregating audiences for digitally produced content — not only from its (shrinking) traditional cable TV base of 22-plus million users, but also from non-subscribers.
But will it work?
Comcast’s strategy here looks like a defensive move — an attempt to offset lost video-advertising eyeballs as TV viewing declines, especially among younger consumers. And that points to the real problem Comcast will have in building Watchable.com (a domain name the MSO registered several years ago) into a brand that rivals the heft of YouTube or Facebook: Online video is a less attractive business than the old-fashioned cable TV bundle, which has generated kabillions in revenue and fat margins over the years.
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