Comcast: 100 Bids for New Network Launches

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Comcast has about 100 prospective African-American and Hispanic networks from which to choose the three minority-owned, multicultural-themed networks the nation's largest MSO is committed to launch in 2012 and 2013.

Comcast's call for proposals for two African-American-owned networks and one English-language Hispanic service yielded a surprisingly high number of applications before the May 31 deadline, David Jensen, vice president of content acquisition for Comcast, said.

Comcast has pledged to launch an English-language Hispanic-themed channel by July 28, 2012, and two majority African-American-owned channels by Jan. 28, 2013.

Overall, Comcast has said it will launch 10 new independent channels over the next eight years, including eight that are Hispanic- and African-American owned or operated. That is a commitment Comcast made in connection with its deal for control of NBCUniversal.

"I think it really shows you that there's tremendous enthusiasm in the creative content community to build a connection between content and audiences," Jensen said. "The responses were very enthusiastic, very creative, and I think it shows that the need we thought existed in this area is very real and very powerful."

Of the 100 or so proposals, Jensen said 80% were programming services targeted to the African-American community or 100% owned by African-Americans.

Most were based in the music- and general-entertainment arenas. But other genres such as history, news and talk, original films and kids were each represented by multiple proposals, Jensen said, without divulging specifics.
He said Comcast received proposals from "some very big names" in the entertainment industry, but again would not disclose them.
"We had ideas from people that had a concept and just wanted to be heard and considered, and otherwise weren't in the business, all the way to people who are very famous, global media brands," Jensen said.

"When we started this we didn't know how the process was going to go because no one has done this before, but it became clear that we're going to get a lot of ideas and we're going to like more than a few, which will make it very hard to pick."

In the end, Comcast's final picks will be based on each network's customer-value proposition, Jensen said. "If we are guided by that, then we'll do right by our customers, the communities we're serving and the channel proponents."
Jensen said Comcast will look to make its final decision by late summer. "Hopefully by then, we should have a pretty clear idea of where we're going," he added.