Comcast: Networks have 'stacked' 550 series on Xfinity On Demand

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) says it now has "stacking" rights to 550 current season TV shows on its Xfinity On Demand VOD platform, a clear sign, the No. 1 pay-TV operator says, that programmers have "come around" to understanding the potential of cable VOD.

Stacking rights enable a pay-TV operator to make each episode from a series' current season available on VOD. Previously fearful of cannibalizing linear viewership, programmers now view stacking as additive to their business models, Comcast's Steve Meyer, VP, video strategy and analysis, told FierceCable.

"VOD was the Forrest Gump box of chocolates a few years ago--you never knew what you were going to get," Meyer explained. "But working with our programming partners, we've really kind of turned that around."

Previously, stacking rights varied greatly from programmer to programmer, so viewers never knew what to expect if they, say, forgot to record a show on DVR and then looked for it on Xfinity On Demand. 

These days, Xfinity viewers can be pretty sure every previous episode from the current season of whatever show they're following is on Xfinity On Demand. That's driving VOD usage, and that usage is driving ratings, Meyer said. 

He added that 70 percent of Comcast subscribers are using VOD services each month. The number goes way up--to 85 percent--for users of Comcast's advanced X1 video platform.

For the Fox hit Empire, for example, 3.6 million Xfinity On Demand homes viewed the series' pilot episode on VOD. Since commercials are kept intact in the first three days after broadcast, Fox was able to sell Nielsen C3 viewership off the additional VOD viewing that occurred in the first 72 hours after broadcast. 

On TNT's The Last Ship, Meyer says the network received a 30 percent boost to its C3 rating with Xfinity VOD viewing factored in. Additionally, 1.6 million Xfinity VOD views occurred four weeks or more after the initial linear airing. 

The viewership occurring after is monetized by emerging direct ad insertion models. However, Fox also benefits from millions of viewers "discovering" the show after its initial broadcast. 

"Turner entered the VOD business with some trepidation," conceded Jennifer Mirgorod, executive VP of distribution for Turner Networks. "We weren't sure how it would impact our linear ratings. But it's clear to us now that viewers like to watch things in a time-shifted fashion."

She said 2014 was a "turning point" for Turner in its attitude toward cable VOD. "We found viewership was actually additive to linear ratings," Mirgorod explained. "Someone might come in and get caught up on The Last Ship, starting watching it on linear, or watch and it would count against our C3."

For more:
- read this Comcast blog post

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