Comcast's answer to Facebook and YouTube - Watchable - reportedly launching in weeks

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is reportedly preparing to launch an online video platform called "Watchable" that will feature content from the likes of AwesomenessTV, Refinery29, The Onion, Vice, NBC Sports and others sometime in the next few weeks, according to a new report from Business Insider that cited unnamed sources familiar with the company's plans.

According to a separate, related report from Variety, Comcast's Watchable service will be launched onto the web for both Comcast subscribers and non-subscribers. Further, Comcast will launch a version of the service for Android and iOS smartphones in the coming months, according to the report. Variety added that Fullscreen, owned by Peter Chernin's Otter Media, will also supply content for Watchable. 

According to the Business Insider report, the platform would essentially be Comcast's response to online video companies like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and YouTube, as well as the mobile video service that Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is planning to launch sometime later this year. Watchable would allow Comcast to cash in on growing interest among Internet advertisers -- already, Facebook counts well over 4 billion video views per day, and has begun selling video ads with guaranteed 10-second views.

Importantly, Comcast is reportedly planning to install Watchable on its X1 set-top box, which it plans to eventually deploy to its roughly 22 million customers. Giving Watchable a prominent position in its X1 service would quickly give Comcast a significant number of potential viewers, which then could attract interest among advertisers, including those that mainly play in the online space.

Comcast declined to comment to Business Insider about the report.

According to the Business Insider report, the content on Watchable will not be exclusive to the platform, meaning that content producers like Vice and others will still be able to plug their content into other platforms like Verizon's forthcoming mobile video service and Facebook's platform. It's unclear what terms Comcast is offering to the content providers. Facebook recently began sharing advertising revenues with its content suppliers, keeping a 45 percent share and giving the rest to the content provider.

Just last month, Comcast posted a job that appeared to confirm reports that the cable giant is developing a platform to compete with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) YouTube. Specifically, the Comcast posting describes a "video portal service that curates the best short-form video on the web." The description comes from a LinkedIn job posting, seeking a managing editor to work under the VP of programming for the new venture.

"Leveraging our large library of videos, hand-crafted playlists, headlines and copy, and other tactics, this person's voice and ideas will shape the voice of the brand/platform," the ad read.

And in early May, The Information reported that Comcast was moving forward with a "YouTube-like" platform that could be either national or global in scope. 

The pub said Comcast has been working on the project for at least 18 months.

"The proposed video service would mark a brand new chapter for Comcast, which would be able to play in a loosely regulated market, reach a national audience, and possibly even make its service available outside the US," The Information added. 

If Comcast does launch the service, Watchable wouldn't be the company's only online video service. Comcast last month announced it would launch a $15-a-month OTT pay-TV service that blends streaming of the major broadcast networks and HBO, as well as access to the MSO's cloud DVR service and thousands of on-demand programs. However, the offering contains no major cable networks.

Comcast said the new service, Stream, will launch in Boston at the end of the summer, followed by deployments in Chicago and Seattle. However, the service will only be available to Comcast's Xfinity Internet customers. 

For more:
- see this Variety article
- see this Business Insider article

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