Comcast Gets Ready to Launch Online Video Service on Its Set-Tops and the Web

Comcast is inching closer toward the launch of its own online video service, and may launch the service within the next few weeks. Business Insider was first to report Friday that Comcast is looking to launch on its set-top-boxes soon; Variety has since learned that the service will also be available on the web for both Comcast subscribers and non-subscribers. A launch on Android and iOS is planned for the coming months.

A Comcast spokesperson declined to comment when contacted for this story.

Some of the content providers lined up for the new service include Buzzfeed and Vox, which recently received a substantial investment from Comcast, as well as AwesomenessTV, Vice and the Onion, according to Business Insider. Fullscreen, which is owned by Peter Chernin’s Otter Media, will also be part of the platform, sources close to the project have told Variety.

The new platform is being called Watchable, which a Comcast subsidiary registered as a trademark in 2014, but the company also once considered Gazeebo as a possible name, and there’s a chance that branding may change last minute. Within Comcast, the platform has been developed under the code name “Project Helen,” Variety has learned.

Comcast has been working on plans to launch its own video service for some time. Company executives initially said they would test the service in 2014, but ended up delaying the launch. Now, it’s supposed to happen in the coming weeks, but it’s likely that the service will see a gradual rollout. Comcast tends to introduce new features on its set-top boxes via beta tests before making them available to a wider audience.

Part of the rationale behind introducing Watchable is to increase retention. Consumers are increasingly looking to online media brands for videos, and the cable company would like consumers to keep watching on its X1 boxes instead of switching over to streaming devices, where competitors like Netflix and YouTube are just one click away.

Comcast is also looking to generate additional ad revenue with online content. The company acquired online video ad specialist Freewheel for $375 million in 2014, and wants to build out its own online properties as ad dollars shift from traditional TV to the internet.

And there’s also a cost argument that makes an online service like Watchable attractive to Comcast. TV networks are asking pay TV operators for ever-increasing retransmission and carriage fees. Comcast’s video service, on the other hand, will likely be based on revenue-sharing agreements based on ad sales. That way, Comcast can add new content to its set-top boxes without asking consumers to pay more for their TV service.

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