As Comcast continues to add to its base of national video-on-demand offerings, the cable operator's Eastern division is reporting significant viewership increases for localized public-service content.
Produced largely by CN8, Comcast's regional network, in conjunction with local organizations, the “Get Local” content runs the gamut of education, entertainment, political and community programming.
During the first 10 months of the year, the local on-demand viewing among Comcast's 5.4 million subscriber Eastern division soared 42%.
“This year through October, we've had 3.7 million views, up from 2.6 million last year for the same period. That's for the 'Get Local' category alone,” said CN8 founder and Comcast Eastern division president Michael Doyle.
In addition to greater digital-box penetration, Doyle attributed the increase in viewers to the availability of more diverse and targeted local fare.
One example is Candidates On Demand, which just aired again for the midterm election and included 500 interviews toward more than 350 races — the most comprehensive package CN8 has ever produced.
Comcast believes its local-network coverage and on-demand offerings form a symbiotic relationship, garnering 50,000 on-demand views over an 18-day period.
CN8 officials said the on-demand platform helped drive viewership for the 9 million-home network along the Eastern seaboard, which culminated in the service notching a 2.0 rating average in both the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets on Election Night, per Nielsen Media Research data.
“Eighty percent of the candidates who were invited came in, including the big races,” Doyle said. “I think what we got out of that is tremendous respect.”
Another Get Local staple is “Troop Greetings On Demand,” which gives families and friends a chance to view holiday greetings from those in the service abroad. The offering will return Dec. 15 for a fourth year with more than 400 greetings across the Eastern division.
“It may sound small, but think about it for just a second,” said Doyle. “We call every family whose son or daughter may be heading out overseas. They may not even have a digital box … but we expose them to it.”
The actual video greetings are furnished by the military, packaged for on-demand distribution by CN8 and made available to customers by state.
A recent addition to the Get Local menu is “Fugitives On Demand,” for which the network worked with the Baltimore police to produce profiles of the area's most-wanted criminals. Debuting in early November, viewing numbers weren't in yet, but Doyle believes the chance to aid police in the capture of dangerous criminals will prove a heavy draw.
In some cases, community organizations featured in the on-demand effort are also seeing strong results.
“We've had 327,000 views since June alone for Pets On Demand. The PSPCA has reported an 85% increase in pet adoptions,” said Doyle.
A similar offering, “Wednesday's Child,” was launched in November in Philadelphia to feature foster children up for adoption. Other content involves local parades, high school sports, concerts, first responders and charities.
“When we initially opened up the Get Local category, we thought we did well with 20,000 views,” said Doyle. “We've beefed it up and gotten to a point where we're getting 350,000 local views a month. We're expecting 700,000 views a month next year, and that category may even double again the following year.”
EDUCATION AND ENTERTAINMENT
To bolster its local on-demand base, CN8 will expand its efforts in education, as well as in the entertainment realm, including restaurant-related content, theater and music. The free offerings fit in with 8,000 on-demand titles (90-95% free) in the Comcast Eastern Division, which include movies, sports, primetime shows and original content such as Dating On-Demand, Karaoke and ExerciseTV.
“There's no home run, just a lot of little pieces of content. And people just shop. It's like they go into a big mall.”
Beyond the Get Local menu, the Eastern division's total on-demand orders increased to 402 million through October, up from 317 million last year. Doyle expected half a billion orders by year's end.