Comcast's Watchable blasted as 'non-starter,' but reports indicate Comcast has relatively modest hopes for service

Details continue to leak out on Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) rumored web video platform Watchable, including that the company will offer content suppliers better terms than Facebook and YouTube. Some analysts are already expressing serious reservations about whether the service will generate interest among Comcast customers and Internet users overall. However, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Comcast has relatively low expectations for the forthcoming service, and is positioning Watchable as a way to entice younger TV viewers to its TV packages.

Business Insider and several other publications reported that Comcast would launch its Watchable web video platform sometime in the coming weeks. Yesterday, the WSJ reported that Comcast would offer its Watchable content providers a more favorable revenue-sharing agreement than Facebook and Google's YouTube, allowing its partners to keep up to 70 percent of the advertising revenues generated from the platform. That's more than the 45 percent share that Facebook and YouTube offer.

Vice Media, Vox Media, Onion Inc., BuzzFeed, AwesomenessTV and others are reportedly committed to providing millennial-friendly content to Comcast's Watchable platform. Such partners would explain the investments that Comcast's NBCUniversal recently confirmed: $200 million each into Vox Media and BuzzFeed.

With a 70 percent revenue split, Comcast's Watchable would offer the same terms as Vessel, the online video startup from Hulu founder Jason Kilar. However, Vessel is working to offer exclusive access to online video clips before they are disseminated across free platforms like YouTube, whereas Comcast's Watchable reportedly won't have any exclusivity provisions and its content providers will be able to disseminate the same clips onto rival platforms like YouTube at the same time they load them to Watchable.

This, according to some analysts, raises concerns about the role that Watchable will play, particularly among millennials.

nScreenMedia analyst Colin Dixon noted that "perhaps the biggest advantage Comcast could wield with Watchable is exclusivity. If the service is the only place an interesting set of content can be seen, that could guarantee at least some viewers will consider adopting the service." But Dixon said that, because all the content on Comcast's Watchable will also be available elsewhere, there will be little reason for users to tune in to the service.

SNL Kagan analyst Seth Shafer agreed. "I just think a lot of people who are into that content are digitally savvy and are already getting it the way they want to get it. I've never heard anyone say, 'I love AwesomenessTV content, but I just don't know how to get it.' The pitch [of Watchable] is solving a perceived pain point that doesn't seem to exist in the real world."

Dixon also said that the young audience Comcast is aiming at "likely doesn't need or want a company like Comcast curating content for them."

But, according to the WSJ, Comcast isn't hoping that Watchable will eclipse established web video providers like Facebook and YouTube. Indeed, according to reports, Watchable won't like users upload their own clips, like Facebook and YouTube do. Instead, Comcast views Watchable as an onramp to its pay-TV service. According to the WSJ, Comcast plans to pair Watchable with Steam, its forthcoming $15-per-month OTT service, on its X1 platform has a way to encourage younger users to dabble in the pay-TV market.

For more:
- see this WSJ article
- see this Variety article
- see this SNL Kagan post
- see this nScreenMedia post

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