ABC, Fox to Partner With Comcast for VOD

Join CBS, NBC in Offering Prime-time Shows On-Demand

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- ABC and Fox will soon join CBS and NBC as on-demand partners with Comcast, Steve Burke, the cable company's chief operating officer, told media buyers today at an early morning video-on-demand upfront presentation.
All of the Big Four -- ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC -- will now be making their prime-time shows available via Comcast's video-on-demand.
All of the Big Four -- ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC -- will now be making their prime-time shows available via Comcast's video-on-demand.

Dramatic changes
The breakfast presentation, at the Museum of Radio & Television in Midtown Manhattan, was an overview of what Comcast is offering on its VOD platform and a forecast of things to come.

"The window for TV product is changing dramatically," Mr. Burke said -- refreshingly without the help of that standard upfront tool, a teleprompter. He said all four broadcasters would be on Comcast's on-demand platform "in the next 90 to 100 days."

Under the current deals CBS and NBC shows are available on VOD the day after they air on the linear network. The shows are available for 99 cents and carry advertising, although not necessarily the same advertising embedded within the original broadcast. Comcast pointed to the broadcasters' embrace of VOD as a way to emphasize to buyers that on-demand is now a major medium that they should be considering.

Pitches VOD advertising
Comcast also pushes a slew of free on-demand content, which accounts for 95% of its VOD orders and today pitched buyers on the value of advertising within those free platforms. It throws out figures such as 70% of digital cable customers use VOD monthly, and if VOD were Nielsen rated, the hours consumers spent viewing it would make it a top 10 network.
Comcast COO Stephen Burke emphasized the fact that 'The window for TV product is changing dramatically.'
Comcast COO Stephen Burke emphasized the fact that 'The window for TV product is changing dramatically.'

Mr. Burke suggested that VOD is poised to take off much like online video advertising has. With online video, he said, the "eyeballs came first and then it took a little while for the advertisers to get there. ... Our hope and belief is that's what's going to happen with VOD."

VOD advertising frustrations
In the past year, advertisers' interest in VOD appears to have waned in favor of streaming video. Part their frustration with VOD stems from an execution standpoint -- ad buys across multiple cable operators can be difficult. The other frustration lies in metrics and a belief that they're not getting all the data they might like fast enough.

But the cable industry is working on both of those issues, according to executives, with companies such as Rentrak, Nielsen, Atlas, Everstream and DoubleClick. As an example of a successful cross-multiple system operator campaign, Comcast held up a VOD play it executed for Wal-Mart on Comcast, Adelphia, Cox and Time Warner Cable systems.

"We will serve up standards across the industry," said Charlie Thurston, president of Comcast Spotlight.

Leading VOD demographic
The presentation also touted VOD as a trove for advertisers trying to reach young consumers. According to Comcast, adults 18-to-34 are the biggest consumers of VOD. While that demo accounts for 20% of linear -- that is, scheduled or programmed -- viewing, they account for 34% of VOD viewing. In fact, the under-34-year-old crowd accounts for 66% of VOD viewing.

Comcast's newest network, called Fear, is a 24/7 on-demand, horror-themed channel with a cache of movies from its partnership with MGM Sony. Fear will be available both as a cable VOD and a broadband channel and will be licensed to other cable operators as well. Comcast has also in the past year turned its PBS Sprout on-demand play into a 24/7 linear network.

"We look at the areas underserved on TV," said Matt Strauss, VP-content acquisition, including parenting, fitness, karaoke and dating.

Comcast VP-Marketing and Communications Vicki Lins said critical mass, both in terms of usage and advertiser interest, spurred on the company's first upfront VOD pitch. And because the upfront period is when most agencies and clients are planning their video budgets, "we didn't want to miss a window of opportunity," she said.
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