Comcast’s ‘Watchable’ to Hit Pause on Originals, Deemphasize OTT

But will ‘double down’ on Watchable’s tech platform, distribution on X1 and other Comcast properties
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Comcast confirmed that it is reallocating resources and making some strategic changes for Watchable, an ad-supported, short-form video platform launched about two years ago on the web, via mobile apps and on the MSO’s own X1 set-top box platform.

RELATED: Comcast Launches ‘Watchable’ Beta

Heading toward 2018, part of that new plan is to “double down” on Watchable’s technology platform and its distribution on X1 and other Comcast properties, according to Jamie Gillingham, vice president of strategic development at Comcast.

He added that the plan is to also “deemphasize” Wathchable’s OTT distribution, which includes apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and to hit the pause button on Watchable originals, which became a key part of the service’s playbook about a year ago.

RELATED: Comcast Adds Exclusives to ‘Watchable’ OTT Mix

“We’ve hit the pause button on that,” Gillingham said, regarding Watchable originals. “We’ll focus more on the licensed content, the non-exclusive content.”

Gillingham said these changes are coming about as Comcast assessed its view of the market and where it should prioritize and focus its energies for 2018 and beyond.

go90, Verizon’s free, ad-supported service, recently went through a similar exercise before introducing a retooled version of the offering earlier this year that was developed by a group that formed after Verizon's acquisition of Vessel.

RELATED: Verizon Retools go90

He noted that Watchable is committed to offering its current batch originals and the slate of other original fare that’s already on tap for 2017.

Regarding Watchable’s OTT distribution, Gillingham stressed that Comcast hasn’t made a firm decision about whether it will maintain or sunset those apps.

“In the near term, we'll redeploy resources that we've been using to develop our audience over-the-top, and that comes mostly in the form of our exclusive original programming and a lot of our over-the-top marketing activity,” he said.

VideoInk reported yesterday that Watchable started to slow its buying in early summer as discussion with programming partners stalled.

Though there are reports that Watchable has struggled to pull in big numbers, Gillingham said Comcast has been happy with Watchable’s ability to develop audience across its different platforms.

“We’re especially happy on the mobile side, mobile web primarily, but also our mobile apps to a certain degree,” he said, adding that Watchable has also seen “very good traction on X1,” which offers more of a lean-back experience with features like auto-play, playlisting and generally sees longer session times.

“We’ve been really underleveraging the X1 platform in a lot of ways,” Gillingham said.

Even with the shift in some of Watchable’s strategy, he said the company remains bullish on the category and being a player in the digital content ecosystem.

“We believe in the digital native content, we believe in the new crop of studios and creators that we've seen popping up over the past several years,” Gillingham said. “It’s clearly resonating with very important segments of the audience…Our focus is still on developing and delivering a value proposition for that audience on the Comcast platforms.”

He also confirmed that Watchable is experimenting with the new Facebook Watch platform.

RELATED: Facebook Unveils ‘Watch’ Platform

“We’re looking at it very selectively,” Gillingham said, noting that Watchable is offering a couple of series through Facebook Watch. “It’s a potentially great platform for certain types of talent-driven series for us that will allow us and our partners to reach and even broader audience much more quickly."