Multiplatform World: Comcast's Strauss Says VOD Poised For More Growth

Exec Points to Gains on Usage, Promotional and Monetization Fronts
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New York -- Comcast’s video-on-demand programming is poised for growth on several levels.

Matt Strauss, senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms at Comcast Cable, speaking at NewBay Media’s "TV in a Multiplatform World" event here Thursday, said the platform’s viewership, promotional and monetization aspects are accelerating.

Whereas kids, music and movies have been the traditional on-demand drivers, VOD viewing of TV series is now on the climb. Strauss said that over the past 24 months, as more cable and broadcast television series content has become available, this form of VOD usage has soared and now represents 40% of platform viewing, excluding premium fare.

Strauss said Comcast is the only provider that has content available from all five broadcast networks. In addition to increased on-demand consumption, the MSO has seen a 15%-20% rise in C3 viewing since it disabled the platform's fast-forward function. “Monetization follows audience,” said Straus, noting that Comcast is working closely with Nielsen regarding on-demand C3 measurement.

Moreover, with viewing beyond that window, Comcast expects to register gains through dynamic ad insertion across its footprint. “Dynamic ad insertion has been the boy that cries wolf for years, but now it’s here,” he said.

Strauss also pointed to the platform’s promotional prowess. He noted that the first two episodes of Syfy’s Defiance scored 75% higher ratings in Comcast markets, where the original series was backed by extensive promotion. Similarly, the bow of A&E’s Bates Motel was 26% greater in markets served by Comcast.

Strauss said gaining access to full seasons of current shows -- not just the four rolling installments that is the current practice -- is on Comcast's VOD wish list. Rather than waiting for all of the installments to be available for binge-viewing after the campaign’s conclusion or for consumers to purchase a DVD of the latest season, he believes having greater in-season access would foster more timely consumer catch-up and serve to boost series' live audiences.

Comcast’s Watchathon Week event in March surprised Strauss, who was of the mind that VOD usage had crested at about 70% of the MSO’s subscriber base. By making series from premium services HBO, Showtime and Starz, plus top-flight basic-cable series like AMC’s Mad Men and The Walking Dead, Lifetime’s Dance Moms and A&E’s Duck Dynasty available, Comcast’s VOD audience grew 8%. “Watchaton Week was our most [VOD] successful event ever,” he said.   

Turning his attention to TV Everywhere during the discussion with Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux, Strauss said that with accessible content continuing to proliferate, measurement capabilities advancing, and barriers to authentication diminishing, awareness is the next  big thing for the “emerging” platform.

Strauss said that TV Everywhere is reaching the stage where there are no longer major lingering concerns about obtaining rights and that “measurement is coming” -- Nielsen is assessing meta data from tablets, for instance. “From a product standpoint, the metrics are getting there. It’s not slowing down our ability to move quickly,” he said.

He said progress on those fronts  -- along with the move away from video account verification to identification based on the last four digits of the user’s social security number and/or telephone number  -- will enable Comcast to concentrate more fully on building awareness via centralized promotional functions.