Two recent announcements from Comcast demonstrate the rise of more personalized channels and an attempt to narrow the gap between multichannel carriers and online video.
On Tuesday, Comcast announced that it would carry new channels owned by NBA great Magic Johnson, musician Sean "Diddy" Combs, and Hollywood director Robert Rodriquez. While a step up from YouTube's Original Channels, the three new networks continue the trend towards ever-narrower niche programming.
Johnson's Aspire channel will target African-American family entertainment, and "will be a network that encourages and challenges African-Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations,” Johnson said. Combs' Revolt channel will focus on music and pop culture, with a robust social media component, fostering engagement between artists and fans. Revolt, said Combs, “is the first channel created entirely from the ground up in this new era of social media. We’re building this platform for artists to reach an extraordinary number of people in a completely different way. Revolt will be live, like all great moments in television history.” Rodriquez' El Rey channel will be an English-language channel targeting Latino audiences. "(W)e are passionate about creating a wildly entertaining destination that we can be proud of by appealing to both Latino and mass market audiences," Rodriguez and partner John Fogelman said in a joint press announcement.
The networks join previously announced BabyFirst Americas network, which will focus on early childhood development of verbal, math, and motor skills, as steps in the fulfillment of a pledge Comcast made to promote minority ownership of cable networks as part of its deal to acquire NBC/Universal..
In a separate announcement, Comcast unveiled its own streaming video service. For now, the service, called "Streampix" will be available only to Comcast's 22.3 Xfinity cable subscribers, and will feature programs and movies from Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, and Warner Brothers. in making the announcement, Comcast Senior VP Marcien Jenckes said, “The main reason we’re launching this product is we feel it helps provide value in our subscription service..." Starting Thursday, the service will be available to Comcast Xfinity customers as part of some higher-end packages, or as a $4.99 add-on.
The addition of a streaming service, while not fully competitive with Netflix, Amazon's Prime streaming offerings, or Wal-Mart's Vudu, shows a concern over the rising use of these streaming services and other online video sources by viewers. (See this post, this post on shifting revenues, and this one on shifting patterns of media use). Taken together, they suggest that Comcast is trying to keep in front of shifting audience content and media use preferences.
Sources: Comcast to Launch Networks Backed by Sean Combs, Magic Johnson and Robert Rodriguez, The Hollywood Reporter
Comcast to Start 'Streampix' Video Service, New York Times
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