Blog Post

Comcast Is Making VOD More Like Live TV

Comcast (s CMCSA) has drastically expanded the amount of TV content available through its VOD service, now with all four major broadcasters on board with current-season TV programming available to subscribers. But more important than the addition of new content is some technology that will enable content providers to better track and monetize shows that Comcast subscribers are tuning into on demand.

With the addition of current-season shows from ABC (s DIS) and Fox, (s NWS) the cable giant will provide the previous four TV episodes for subscribers to do catch-up viewing. That brings the total number of TV series to about 600, which also includes shows from cable networks like AMC, FX, MTV, (s VIA) Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT (s TWX) and USA. By adding new broadcast content, Comcast is making the case for viewers to tap its VOD system for catchup viewing, instead of heading online to Hulu to view episodes of shows they might have missed or to check out new series they might be interested in.

The VOD initiative was designed in reaction to changing consumer behavior, as more and more of its subscribers tune into shows on demand — whether it be through cable VOD or online through free, ad-supported services like Hulu. In a phone conversation, Marcien Jenckes, SP and GM of Comcast Video Services, said: “Consumers want to get content on their own terms. They want to watch when they want and where they want.”

As a result, Comcast is preparing for this brave new world by making as much content as possible through its VOD offering. “In the future, all TV will be available on demand,” Jenckes said. “We just need to figure out how to do that under business models that work for networks and programmers, while giving consumers the experience they want.”

The problem is that VOD historically isn’t well tracked or monetized. To get the networks on board, Comcast has had to roll out new features and capabilities that take care of both of those issues. On the reporting front, Comcast is working with Nielsen to get its VOD viewership counted under the same C3 or C7 ratings that are used to track live and on-demand viewing on DVR. That provides broadcasters a “currency” through which they can sell adds against new episodes that appear on VOD shows.

Comcast has also been working hard on solving the advertising problem. Until recently, VOD ads were stitched into the video file itself, which provided limited opportunity for monetization. Now Comcast has dynamic ad insertion, which enables content owners to sell new ads against the shows they’re making available through the VOD service. And it’s taking the ad game a step further by providing targeting that isn’t available for most linear broadcasting. Comcast is also allowing broadcasters to disable fast forwarding through advertisements.

The combination of unskipable ads and Nielsen reporting make VOD viewership almost like live TV — which could be a good thing for programmers. Not only could expanded VOD options increase overall viewership and introduce viewers to new shows — thereby potentially increasing linear viewership — but it could increase overall monetization.

Image of the Comcast tower courtesy (CC-BY-SA) of Flickr user Kevin Burkett.